Police, downtown businesses seek No Sit-Lie law in Tempe, AZ FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 3 Sep 1998 16:57:10 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  http://www.azcentral.com:80/sev/news/0827sidewalk.shtml


     By Bob Petrie
     The Arizona Republic
     Aug. 27, 1998

First it was a law banning panhandling around automatic teller machines.
Then one outlawing urban camping.

Tempe police are turning up the pressure on downtown transients again,
looking to get a new law prohibiting people from sitting or lying down on
sidewalks in the Mill Avenue business area.

They'll tell the City Council tonight a new law, similar to one in place in
Seattle, is necessary to stop transients, homeless people and so-called
slackers from harassing others for money on Mill Avenue.

"I've had more than one middle-age person tell me they're uncomfortable in
downtown Tempe, and I don't like that," said Councilman Dennis Cahill,
chairman of the public health and safety subcommittee, which will likely
review a new sidewalk ordinance next month.

Some business owners have told police that transients are blocking
entrances to their establishments, deterring people from going into their
stores and restaurants.

"We know there's a problem, both from the patrons and the business owners,"
said Rod Keeling, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community, an
organization representing Mill Avenue area businesses.

"We get calls almost every day."

The DTC and the police would like a law in place by the time the weather
cools off and transients, attracted to the Valley's mild winter climate,
start heading to Tempe en masse.

"This is our ongoing effort to argue for the ease of civility in the
downtown," Keeling said.

Police Chief Ron Burns remembers that the Seattle law, written several
years ago while he was chief of police in the suburb of Kirkland, Wash.,
sparked controversy while it was being passed.

The Seattle law, which has withstood local court challenges, prohibits
sitting or lying down on public sidewalks in downtown and neighborhood
commercial zones from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Burns said the police find themselves in a difficult situation in crafting
and enforcing such laws.

"We're put in the middle here," he said. "One side is saying, "Get rid of
them,' and the other side is saying, "We're not doing anything wrong.' "

But Burns also says something needs to be done to keep people moving along
Mill Avenue.

"We're not trying to run them (transients) out of town, just to make sure
they behave in such a way they're good citizens," Burns said.


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