The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

By Sean C. Morgan
Of The New Era 

Ordinance could ban criminal perpetrators from public places


July 20, 2016

City Attorney Robert Snyder is preparing a draft ordinance for the City Council’s consideration that will allow the city to exclude people from public property if they commit violations or crimes on the public property.

The city passed a similar law in 2015 to apply to the city’s parks, said Police Chief Jeff Lynn, who recommended to the Public Safety Committee on June 28 that the law be expanded to include other publicly owned property.

The idea is that someone who commits a crime or violation can be arrested for criminal trespass, said City Attorney Robert Snyder. It’s something that can be included in a release agreement for someone who has been arrested.

“What I would like to see is that we expand these not to just public parks but to publicly-owned property, in essence,” Lynn said. “And you hate to just say certain specific instances are driving this, but we’ve had a lot of issues in front of the library and the parking lot in front of City Hall.

“We have very little enforcement that we can take on that, and if we do find somebody who’s doing something wrong, that is a violation or citable or arrestable offense, we don’t have a way to actually exclude them until they see the judge.”

Library patrons have been concerned about the number of individuals gathering in the area, Lynn said, and the library has taken steps to address it there.

Little of the problem has been criminal, Lynn said. It’s mostly been disturbances, with those gathered there yelling at each other.

The city has also dealt with behavioral issues in the pocket park at the intersection of 12th and Nandina streets, Lynns aid. “It pushed a chunk of them to Sankey. We had a heavy presence at Sankey, and a number were excluded, and they’ve basically met in the middle (around the City Hall parking lot) at this point.”

The police have been working on the problem with the library staff since then, Lynn said.

The library has removed an exterior outlet people had been using to charge personal electronics, Lynn said. The library also has changed its lighting.

Senior Center bus program personnel have been complaining about people sitting in the bus stop there all day as well in recent months.

“If legitimate individuals are using the bust stop, that’s no concern to us,” Lynn said. If they’re just gathering there and preventing others from using the bus top, it’s a problem.

Those gathering there also bring an intimidation factor, he said. Some people probably don’t reoprt it, but police have heard about it.

Officers have at times asked people gathered but not waiting for a bus to move on, Lynn said.

“This may also give us some teeth,” Lynn said. “It’s not an answer-all. It’s not going to solve any and every problem. But it could be beneficial for not only CIty Hall parking lot, other facilities. If a building’s acquired out at the east end of town, those areas out there as well. It’s not an answer-all, but It gives us some options.”

Without an ordinance like this, even if people are, for example, using alcohol in public, a violation in Sweet Home, the city cannot exclude them from the area, Lynn said.

Snyder told the committee he would draft an ordinance for the the committee’s consideration.

Following a review of the ordinance, the committee could recommend approval and move it to the full City Council for adoption.

The Public Safety Committee includes councilors Greg Mahler, Dave Trask and Jeff Goodwin.


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