'Unruly-gatherings' law curbs wild parties in Towson

Towson University senior Justin Patrylow had just moved into a rental house near campus last month when he invited a few friends over for a barbecue.

They were playing music “a bit louder than we usually do,” Patrylow says. But because it was a Friday afternoon, he figured no one would mind.

He was wrong. Patrylow, a 21year-old senior from Allentown, N.J., was hit with a $500 fine and the prospect of 20 hours’ community service.

That’s the penalty for violating a new Baltimore County ordinance aimed at curtailing the raucous off-campus parties Towson residents have been complaining about for years.

Enacted by the County Council in January, the Social Host–Unruly Social Gatherings ordinance applies to any gathering of four or more people in a home near Towson University or the University of Maryland Baltimore County that features “conduct that disturbs the peace.”

Landsman directs officers to issue citations, not warnings. Shellenberger’s office has prosecuted every referred case. Judges have issued fines, community service, or both in each instance.

No one pretends the problems of binge drinking or partying-related crime are solved.

“The sample size is small, but the results are definitely encouraging,” Hartman says. “Let’s see how things look at the end of the year.”

According to Shellenberger, word of the punishments seems to be getting around, and that has helped. It has certainly reached Patrylow.

The Towson senior says he considers the ordinance too stringent for college students, and he wishes the public were more flexible. He plans to fight the citation in court.

But that doesn’t mean the experience hasn’t changed him.

He and his friends have thrown no more parties, he says, and have no plans to do so.

“It’s a thousand-dollar fine for a second offense,” Patrylrow says. “We’re trying to lay low.”


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