make loitering illegal, Concord, CA police propose FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Wed, 27 May 1998 00:06:38 -0700 (PDT)


http://www.hotcoco.com/news/eastbay/central/stories/chr48339.htm
FWD  Central County [CA] News    Published on May 21, 1998


     HANG OUT, GO TO JAIL
     POLICE PROPOSE AMENDMENT TO CODE TO MAKE LOITERING ILLEGAL

     By Andrew Gordon - Staff Writer


Some call it hanging out. Others call it loitering.

But whatever people many call it, the Concord Police Department want to
call it illegal.

The Police Department is proposing an amendment to the municipal code that
would allow officers to arrest people for loitering, should they be on
property that they were previously told by police to leave.

Lt. Ron Ace explained that when police are called out to deal with people
loitering in front of businesses, all they can do is ask people to leave
and have no real power if they return.

Currently, if a person is asked by police to leave, and then returns, a
person from the business must make a citizen's arrest before the police can
get involved. Ace explained that employees are reluctant to do so, as they
sometimes fear retaliation.

But with the department's proposal, if a person returns within 30 days
after being told to leave, police can arrest them for trespassing.

"This has always been a problem in certain areas of the city," said Ace.
"It's not that the people loitering are doing anything specific. It's just
that their presence can be intimidating."

In a report on the proposal, Ace pointed out that large groups of day
laborers congregate at a 7-Eleven store on Monument Boulevard. Their
presence deters people from going to the store, as past customers have been
hassled by day laborers looking for work.

Ace also pointed to shopping centers near high schools, such as the
Vineyards Shopping Center near Clayton Valley High School, and Oak Grove
Plaza near Ygnacio Valley High School. The centers attract large numbers of
students who congregate in front of the stores.

Ace pointed out in his report that at one time, so many students were
loitering near the Lucky supermarket in Oak Grove Plaza that the business
was considering closing its doors, as customers were going elsewhere.

"This isn't just about day laborers and high school students," Ace
explained. "It's any group of people who are causing problems for a
business.

"The Terminal Shopping Center has had problems with homeless people. And it
might just be one or two people, not necessarily a group of people. But if
a business doesn't care about a group of people hanging around out front,
we can't do anything about that."

Ace conceded that although the people typically are not doing anything, it
is the perception certain people or a large group of people produce that
often intimidates potential customers.

The proposal went before the City Council subcommittee on policy
development and internal operations Wednesday, May 13. Mayor Mark Peterson
and Vice Mayor Mike Pastrick recommended sending it for approval to the
council.

"This gives the police the authorization to deal with people loitering in
front of businesses," said Pastrick. "There's a big difference between one
person in front of a store and a hundred people."

Pastrick added that this is about changing people's behavior, so that it
does not negatively impact Concord's businesses.

Ace said that the proposal will probably go before the council in June,
after he has contacted the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce and the
affected shopping centers.

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