Disturbing the peace: ‘I didn’t know it was this bad’

About 25 people joined a pilot last Monday to address disorderly behaviour. The objective? To find ways for students and residents to live comfortably alongside each other.

This is the first time that so many different groups talk with each other about disorderly behaviour. (Photo: Justyna Botor)

Murmurs can be heard from a venue in a Delft residential neighbourhood. About 25 people shuffle round a rectangular dining table with heads bent. Their gaze is on dozens of notes that have been randomly spread on the table. ‘The bicycles at student houses may not be parked on the pavement’, someone reads from a note. ‘Students bring fresh ideas to the city’, is written on another note. The notes with statements like these are part of a pilot to address disorderly behaviour by students. Or ‘het gebeuren in de wijk’ (the happenings in the neighbourhood) as an external facilitator hired for the occasion prefers to call it. What is the objective of the pilot? To find new ways to let students and Delft residents live comfortably alongside each other.

This is the first time that so many different groups talk with each other about disorderly behaviour. There are residents of Delft with families and full-time jobs and about 10 students from DSC and Virgiel. There are representatives of TU Delft, the Municipality of Delft, Duwo, the TU Delft Noord interest association, Alderman Karin Schrederhof and the community police officer from the Wippolder neighbourhood. While disturbing the peace is a recognised problem in Wippolder, no structural solution has yet been found, says neighbourhood resident Marie-José. She was one of the initiators of the evening. “You don’t get anywhere by talking at length at a high level. You need to talk to each other at neighbourhood level, so a gathering like this seemed a good idea,” she explains.

Student Belle says that “this type of thing really is needed.” She lives with 13 others in an association house in Wippolder. Her house too has sometimes caused a disturbance of the peace. “We chilled in the garden more often during Covid. We have a neighbourhood app which the people around us can use if they have problems with us. But recently someone suddenly sent a police officer to us. We didn’t even realise that we were making so much noise,” she says. “When something like this happens it is hard to take action or talk about it because we don’t know who made the complaint.”

I literally cannot get any sleep four nights a week

Neighbourhood resident Mascha, her five year old daughter and partner have lived in Wippolder for years. She is surrounded by student houses. “Students live next door, across the road and behind us,” she says. “The neighbours are nice students who bring round oliebol (a traditional pastry eaten on New Year’s Eve, Eds.) on New Year’s Eve, but all the other houses do is party. I literally cannot get any sleep four nights a week,” she says. While she stays calm, you can hear the emotion in her voice from time to time. “The disorderly behaviour almost caused me to have a burnout,” she says in a shaky voice. She too is happy with the pilot. “I would be happy if everyone in the neighbourhood got along, but sometimes you have simply had enough.”

I didn’t know it was so bad

The statements on the notes on the table get the discussions going. What about solutions? They too pop up. One was that students offered to make an informative film that could be shown to first years during the OWee. “It could be a film in which Mascha talks about the impact that noise disturbance has on her life. I didn’t know it was so bad,” says one of the students.

The initiator, Marie-José, is happy with the outcomes of the evening. “Everyone listened respectfully to each other, and it generated a lot of new ideas.” The pilot will be followed up in the coming months. “Someone from the Municipality will work out all the suggestions. After that we will see how we can give more shape to a pilot like this. Just one evening of talking to each other is not enough. There will only be a lasting effect if something is organised regularly.”

News editor Annebelle de Bruijn

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