Durham residents outraged over rowdy Duke parties

DURHAM (WTVD) -- A rape allegation this month at an off-campus Duke fraternity house has reignited a longtime debate over rowdy parties thrown by students.

Long before those rape allegations surfaced, though, Durham resident Alisa Johnson says it was on a list of houses already on the radar of a group of concerned citizens.

"The system was supposed to work and shut that fraternity down and that's not what happened," said Johnson, a member of Durham Neighborhoods United.

The group claims it has witnessed raucous parties at various off-campus rental homes. They say buses and taxi cabs shuttle in dozens of students to the events.

The group has met with police, city leaders, and Duke University leaders in response to house party complaints in the past. They devised a plan of action when reporting fraternity parties or other disturbances at house rented by students, including meeting with students.

Since a young woman claimed she was drugged and sexually assaulted at a Duke fraternity house, several concerned citizens have sent emails to Durham leaders.

One person warns about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

"This rape allegation incident is a perfect example of one," he wrote in an email to both city and university officials.

Another person shared a story about fraternity members on Vickers Avenue who were drinking from a beer bong on their roof.

Durham's Planning Department says it's unclear whether the house at 2505 West Chapel Hill Street was an official fraternity house.

Its occupants got the attention of the city last year for organizing and advertising fraternity events without a special use permit. The activities ceased, according to a city spokesperson.

The special use permit is required for off-campus groups wanting to host parties or large-scale events. It is not a violation for a limited number of fraternity or sorority members to live together in a private residence, which could be a possible loophole.

"One of the things that would potentially quiet the houses down would be if the students would literally apply for permits so that the houses that they live in can be vetted for these activities. They will not do that," added Johnson.

Duke University says 16 of 17 of its fraternity chapters are housed on campus, most in residence halls or apartments.

The University says it addresses off-campus student behavior each year with door-knocks and face-to-face meetings with students. There's also a program to discourage underage drinking.

But, it's other students living in the community that keep Johnson and other concerned homeowners up at night.

Johnson says the letters and emails will continue. Durham Neighborhoods United is committed to working with the city and the university.

"We were trying to find a way to break that cycle because it is very difficult for some people," said Johnson. "Some of the parties are quite horrendous."

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