Committee Moves Ahead With Oswego ‘Social Host Law’ Proposal

Councilor Kevin Hill discusses his proposed law. At right is First Ward Councilor Susan McBrearty
Councilor Kevin Hill discusses his proposed law. At right is First Ward Councilor Susan McBrearty

OSWEGO – At its meeting Monday night, the Planning and Development Committee sent a resolution regarding a tentative Social Host Law to the full council for consideration.

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Councilor Kevin Hill discusses his proposed law. At right is First Ward Councilor Susan McBrearty

Council vice president Kevin Hill brought the proposal to the committee for discussion.

It is in response to young people, college students and others, migrating from the downtown bars to large house parties in residential neighborhoods, he explained.

“Most of the (college) students do respect Oswego residents and their property,” he said.

Others do not.

“The problem is not just about students. It’s a broader issue,” he said.

The proposed law is a version of others that have been enacted by various municipalities in the state, Hill explained.

It aims to make it unlawful for any person older than the age of 18 who owns, rents, or otherwise controls a private residence, to knowingly allow the consumption of alcohol, alcoholic beverages or illegal drugs by any minor (younger than the age of 21) on such premises or to fail to take reasonable corrective action upon learning of the consumption of alcohol, alcoholic beverages or use of illegal drugs by any minor on such premises.

The proposed law is slightly different from current New York State Legislation, which only governs the actual giving or selling of alcohol to a person less than 21 years of age, City Attorney Kevin Caraccioli pointed out. What Hill is proposing places responsibility on the host where such illegal acts may be occurring, he said.

“It’s the violator, whoever is throwing the party, is the one who will be on the hook,” he said. Having the law include illegal drugs as well as alcohol is “critically important,” he added.

He urged the council to make sure the wording (definitions) are very clear and specific; because “some attorneys out there will try to rip it to shreds.”

Violators could pay a fine of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $1,000 for a third.

First Ward Councilor Susan McBrearty said she was in favor the law.

“We’ve been struggling with this issue for years,” she said. “This is not just a college student issue; we’ve had problems with our own kids having parties.”

This proposal is a step in the right direction for improving the quality of life for residents, Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire said.

The city police department and the Oswego State University Police have a good working relationship, he said, adding that just recently Councilor Hill was part of a discussion about the on -going enforcement efforts between the two agencies. It’s not just city police in the city and campus police on campus, he said of the collaborative effort.

“I think this is a really good tactic to take,” he told the committee.

Besides the enforcement part of the job, he said they also try to educate the young adults about the ramifications of their actions in hope of preventing problems from occurring in the first place.

In addition to possible punishment in the city court, violators also face on-campus administrative sanctions, the chief said.

And, the city sends letters to the students’ home address, notifying parents of the infractions and consequences.

Usually, when officers arrive at the scene of a complaint, the parties are cooperative, the chief said.

“If we don’t get cooperation then we have to take another route and do some investigation,” he said. “We try very hard to keep it very low-key because the less disruption we have at the house the less disruption you’re going to have in the neighborhood.”

Some parties are large, and when you have 200 people walking through a neighborhood, it creates disturbances, he added.

“To give us another tool to be able to investigate in terms of violations vs. unclassified misdemeanors it makes it easier for us,” he said.

The city attorney told the councilors to craft the local law specific to Oswego.

“The judges across the street will enforce it,” he said referring to City Court across Oneida Street from City Hall. “But it’s got to make sense. I recommend you keep it as broad as possible.”

If approved by the full council, the public hearing could be scheduled later this month or early November.