Social Host Ordinance
6:00 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Security Guards At Private Parties Might Not Be Worth It

The Social Host Ordinance (or Unruly Gathering Ordinance) has been on the books in Eugene for almost six months. It allows police to give extra penalties to out-of-control party hosts. But, some partiers have come up with a new strategy to keep the cops away.

Eugene police.

“As an adult, if I had a party at my house, I wouldn’t let one stranger into my door.”

And young party-goers.

U of O students, fraternities and sororities throw parties in the  West and South University neighborhoods.
U of O students, fraternities and sororities throw parties in the West and South University neighborhoods.
Credit Jes Burns

“We have a huge basement. We love having a DJ down there, we love having a ton of people”

They’re hardly ever on the same page. That’s part of why the social host ordinance was passed this year – to give police an extra tool to encourage party hosts to keep things under control. Kelli Putnam is a community service officer with EPD.

 "We're really trying to get the message out, but it seems like the only thing that's being heard is 'We're coming to get you''

Only twenty ordinance citations have been given total, at 6 different parties.  She says police could have used it at least twice as much.

"Officers always have discretion. And this ordinance was never intended to be an all or nothing."

Under the ordinance, officers can fine party throwers up to $1,000 if their guests are drinking, and have violated two things on a list of things like public urination and noise disturbance.

It’s not clear yet if the ordinance has had any affect. But, some U of O students have come up with a solution they *think will keep them out of trouble.

 “One of our friends who DJs for us at all our parties was like, well, let’s just get a security guard..”

Jeff Leeson is a U of O senior. He and his roommates love throwing huge parties. Their guests range from friends to total strangers – usually around 200 total.

“We told him like, ‘Hey, us three live here. He’s a homie, he’s a homie, please listen to us five. And he did a great job keeping people inside. His presence was known. There wasn’t any riff-raff out in the streets.”

After the ordinance passed last May, the U of O’s Daily Emerald published an article about a party where the hosts were convinced a police didn't come to their door, because of their security guard outside. Since then, more and more students have forked over the minimum $100 to book one.

Erik Hartman runs Oregon Event Enterprises - what he claims is the only security firm in Eugene that can handle house parties.

 “Before the social host ordinance went in we were doing once a week. Since then it’s been fairly consistently six to ten parties a week.”

Hartman’s guards promise to keep client’s parties safe, legitimate, and under control. He says they are often in touch with the police to clarify rules. They just changed their base requirement from one to *two guards, for a minimum of 3 hours.
 
EPD Officer Putnam says security is never a bad thing. But..

“Having security is never going to guarantee that you won’t get some kind of police response.”

Noise is noise, and if neighbors complain, the police come. But for students like Leeson, having security means he can relax.

 “It’s completely worth it. Before it was stressful, because we had to constantly be going outside, checking, corralling people inside. We couldn’t enjoy our own party.”

Hartman says his employees are trained and certified

 “Officers that are working security are not just random big dudes.”

And, house parties are just one of their specialties – Hartman says they have the ‘people skills’ require to work with the college party-throwing demographic.

When the social host ordinance first passed, there were protests and petitions to repeal it. Security sounds like a quick, fairly affordable solution. But Officer Putnam says responsible partying should still be possible without hiring security.