LINCOLN — Only a serious party house would have portable potties in the backyard.
At least a couple of yards in Lincoln’s North Bottoms neighborhood, just north of Memorial Stadium, have portable bathrooms for their visitors so they don’t have to go inside the house.
The Lincoln Police Department says it has gone to those houses and others, issuing tickets and shutting down parties of hundreds of people. Police in cruisers and plainclothes officers are keeping an eye on the North Bottoms, which attracts many students for its nearness to Memorial Stadium and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and for its cheap rents in old bungalows.
The party problem is especially intense during Husker home football games.
“We get complaints about the party issue, the noise, the litter, public urination and just general disruption in the neighborhood,” said Officer Angela Sands of the Lincoln Police Department.
Young people have been taken to hospitals with huge amounts of alcohol in their systems or to The Bridge Behavioral Health, a Lincoln facility that specializes in treating alcoholism and drug addiction.
Tickets have been issued, Sands said, for underage drinking, disorderly houses, consuming alcohol in public and other violations. Homeowners are put on notice that they, too, will be cited if problems persist.
“The fact is, it’s dangerous,” she said. Robberies and sexual assaults can happen, she said. And some drunken people might end up driving.
Throughout the North Bottoms, renters have a perception that police are cracking down.
“They’ve kind of shut down on the whole partying along the Bottoms,” said sophomore Austin Peterson of Apple Valley, Minnesota. His rental house’s backyard has a nice, if distant, view of Memorial Stadium and the “National Champions 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997” sign high on the structure.
Asked whether they see the police on game days, Peterson and his sophomore pal Riley White, also a Minnesotan, said absolutely.
“Oh, a lot. It’s hard to miss them,” Peterson said.
They’re patrolling the area constantly, White said.
Sands said Lincoln police are patrolling, but no more than in the past. But this year they’ve gone to social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, posting photos and information about parties and problems. That has created more buzz and the perception of greater enforcement.
Evan Cox of Omaha, a senior, was in his backyard with his 6-month-old yellow Lab on Thursday afternoon, talking about the situation. Cox lives in a house on Charleston Street that has portable potties in the backyard and residents who have been ticketed.
Cox said the neighborhood is a nice mix of students and people who have lived there a long time. He has borrowed tools from a man who lives nearby. “He’s my parents’ age,” Cox said.
The police came when several hundred partiers were in the backyard Sept. 16 during the Northern Illinois game, he said. He said he hasn’t personally been ticketed.
“It’s fun,” he said. “We see how it’s bad. Yeah, you have a lot of binge-drinking, you have some minors.”
But he and his roommates have “a minimum of four sober people” walking around, seeing to it that drunken people get taken home. They also hire two security guards, he said.
“We actually care,” he said. “We care a lot about safety.”
Students come to the North Bottoms for parties because they can’t drink in dorms or on campus, he said. If drinking is pushed out of the North Bottoms, it will move farther away and people will have to drive drunk to get home, he said.
“College kids are going to drink,” he said.
He said he doesn’t resent the police presence, which he says is stronger than before.
“I appreciate what the police do. There are a lot of people who don’t,” he said. “They’re doing their job.”
They typically don’t ticket a party unless they have to come back, he said.
Vivian Kolb, 58, who lives east of Cox by several houses and across the street, said she hasn’t had much trouble this season.
She pointed to another house.
“They’ve been doing pretty good on this end,” Kolb said. “They had a party, and they had a band, but it wasn’t too bad. ... Everything gets cleaned up right away.”
But a man who asked not to be named for fear of retribution said the North Bottoms has gone to pot.
He said he grew up in the North Bottoms when it contained many Germans from Russia. They really cared about the neighborhood, the 62-year-old man said.
But they died out and their children sold their houses to people who rent them out, he said.
“You’ve got groups of kids that run in packs down here, going from party to party,” he said. “You’ve got landlords that monitor the stuff, and you’ve got landlords that don’t give a crap about anything except the almighty dollar,” the man said. “To me, it’s the landlords” who are to blame.
UNL spokesman Steve Smith said the university has worked with the police and others “to address risky behaviors and parties in that area for some time. ... The long view is that problems have generally declined in the neighborhood.”
Cole Taylor is a tenant in a house on New Hampshire Street that got busted for having a huge, out-of-control party. Taylor, 25, said he wasn’t home that day but wishes he had been. It sounded like fun, he said.
Taylor, of Cambridge, Nebraska, said he lives there with his 21-year-old sister and two of his sister’s friends, who go to Southeast Community College.
“Parties happen,” he said. “We’re from Nebraska. We bleed black and red.”
Back on Charleston Street, William Cole watched TV with two dogs and a cat. His health is bad — bad lungs, bad heart.
“It gets pretty hectic around here,” the 65-year-old man said. “I mean, they’re college kids, you know.”
It’s not a problem for him. Heck, he said. He’s asleep by 8 o’clock.