Residents of Harrisonburg’s Old Town Neighborhood fed up with JMU student parties

A woman is pulling together her neighborhood to address partying concerns.
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Residents of the Old Town Neighborhood in Harrisonburg have gotten fed up with parties and disorderly conduct from JMU students living in the neighborhood, and one woman has organized her neighbors to take action.

“It is just something that I am not willing to tolerate in my neighborhood. We have the issue of public urination because of large parties. I don’t know if it’s the lack of facilities or just the disregard but daylight or night, doesn’t matter. The language is ridiculous; they’re drinking alcohol out of open containers,” said Kathy Whitten, who lives in the neighborhood.

Whitten has lived in the Old Town Neighborhood for 35 years, and she said that while there have always been JMU parties, the disturbances and disrespectful behavior at nearby fraternity and sorority house has gotten out of hand lately.

“Sometimes it actually is property damage because when people are intoxicated. They have little regard for themselves or anybody else, so we’ve had things getting stolen, items on a porch that look very attractive when you’re very drunk,” she said.

Whitten said she has even had students who thought she called the police on them for a party come to her door and ask her if she called the police.

“I think that’s pretty absurd to ask a question like that if you got a ticket because of noise or whatever to go to your neighbor and complain and try to be intimidating. I will tell you I was not intimidated,” she said.

After a large party in the neighborhood earlier in the semester, Whitten held a meeting with her neighbors and JMU Police Chief Anthony Matos to discuss the problems and possible solutions.

Whitten said that she and her neighbors believe the city of Harrisonburg has been too light on punishments for large parties to this point.

“I don’t think large parties should be permitted in a neighborhood where people live and are raising children. I think it’s really a ridiculous example for our young children particularly but even teenagers,” she said.

Since the first meeting of her neighbors, Whitten said she has also met with JMU officials including Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Tim Miller as well as Harrisonburg City officials like Police Chief Kelley Warner.

“The attitude that ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ is pervasive with some of the students, and I want to really emphasize some of the students because most of the students in our community are contributing members who we really do like, respect, and want here,” she said.

Residents of the Old Town Neighborhood will host a town hall-style meeting at the Lucy Simms Center in Harrisonburg on October 18 at 6 p.m. to discuss the problem and potential solutions with students, JMU leadership, police, and Harrisonburg leadership.