advertisement

Today's Question: Does Columbia need a loitering ordinance?

Thursday, August 6, 2009 | 12:35 p.m. CDT; updated 12:44 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 6, 2009

The City Council on Monday heard a report from the Police Department on a potential loitering law in the Special Business District. Among the biggest issues, if the city decides to go down that road, is drafting a law specific enough to avoid violating a 1999 Supreme Court ruling.

Drafting the ordinance is a ways off while more research is done on how it can be implemented. But an initial poll of 33 downtown business owners conducted by the Police Department found that all were in favor of a downtown loitering ordinance.

The danger is writing a law that is too vague, like Chicago did in 1992. That law defined loitering as “remaining in any one place with no apparent purpose.” That's pretty much the dictionary definition, but the Supreme Court struck it down years later. Since then, other municipalities have passed loitering ordinances that avoided challenge by using much more specific language.

Some of the “problems” the police report identifies in the district involve large crowds gathering outside bars, but the first problems listed are vagrancy and aggressive panhandling, issues associated with the homeless.

If Columbia starts arresting the homeless for panhandling downtown, they'll need somewhere else to go. The ordinance could, if enacted, remove some of Columbia's homeless population from downtown, but if worded too vaguely, the city might have costly legal issues on its hands.

Does Columbia need a loitering ordinance?


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements