UNIVERSITY CITY (KMOX) – University City leaders are holding off on proposed hefty fines for sidewalk obstructors — a.k.a. loitering teenagers.
The restriction is meant to quell a surge of youngsters, flocking in packs and jamming passageways along the Delmar Loop. Shop owners have claimed they chase away customers on Friday and Saturday nights.
The fine for “interfering with the use of sidewalks or streets” would be $1-thousand per violation.
Civil rights activist Ed Reggi pointed out a series of laws, already on the books, which he says are relevant, including failure to comply with a law enforcement officer, interference with city officers or employees, fighting in public, panhandling, unlawful assembly, harassment and noise.
But the most appropriate piece of code, he said, is disturbing the peace, which deals with “physically obstructing vehicle or pedestrian traffic,” extremely similar to the language in the proposed new ordinance.
To that end, he questioned whether the ordinance is designed to covertly target African-American teenagers.
“That will be by far a bigger public relations nightmare that University City will never be able to fight,” he said.
“For us to say that we’re going to target one particular group, just really hurts my heart as a member of this society,” former resident Sarah Farrell added. “These are kids. They are not thugs. They simply are wanting something to do and we need to offer them a chance to engage in our community rather than turn them away.”
She said she was once a rowdy teenager in the Loop, and noted techniques which were effective in the mid-1990s to battle the loitering: beautification projects, planting trees and flowers, street art, music performances.
Council members, after discussing the legality of the proposal with the City Attorney and the set of already-existing laws with the Police Chief, will reconsider the matter at their next meeting.
Also at Monday’s meeting: U. City Says ‘I Do’ to Domestic Partnerships
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