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Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Charlotte’s Public Safety Zones

By Jennifer Stevens

 

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is currently working on a policy known as “public safety zones.”[1] These safety zones would be city areas where people with past arrests would be prohibited from entering.[2] The city explained that the ordinance would work like this: If CMPD found an area with a lot of crime, the police chief would have the power to declare that area a safety zone.[3] The police chief would not have to get any approval before declaring the area a safety zone.[4] Further, if a person is arrested within this safety zone, that person would be barred from returning to that area.[5] The city plans to implicate an appeal policy, where a person may be allowed to return if the person is caring for children or working in that area.[6] If a person is found guilty or convicted, he or she would be prohibited from entering that area for up to a year. [7]

 

Unrealistic Ordinance with Unrealistic Goals

 

The city intends to enforce this ordinance to address criminal behavior and reduce crime, while also bringing back reputations from neighborhoods that have been destroyed due to criminal nuisance activity.[8]

                  It is hard to imagine that the city truly believes that these safety zones will truly reduce crime. First, how does CMPD plan to implement a process to track whether certain individuals are in the targeted area? Many people will ignore the ordinance and return to the area without thinking twice. Another problem with this ordinance is that the crime is not being prevented, but being moved to other parts of the city. It is common sense: if you push criminals out of one area, they must go to another area to live. It would seem as though CMPD is simply putting a bandage over a bigger problem instead of tackling crime specifically.

Constitutional Rights

 

Apart from the mere common sense argument against the ordinance, it is important to look at the constitutional rights that are being infringed. The CMPD attorney has already addressed the fact that this ordinance has “significant constitutional hurdles.”[9] A person has a constitutional right to freedom or movement and association. Persons have been granted the freedom to travel and this ordinance would specifically ban free persons from their right to travel freely. Is this ordinance really so beneficial to the city that individuals should give up constitutional rights? Absolutely not.

 

Open the Flood Gates: Police Power

 

Lastly, this ordinance opens up one slippery slope for CMPD. As mentioned above, the police chief needs no approval to declare an area a safety zone.[10] To implement this ordinance, police would have the ability to search people in order to find out whether or not they have been previously arrested. If one does not comply, it is likely that the police can arrest the person for not complying with the ordinance. This leads to open search and seizures to persons inside the safety zone. So, what can the police NOT do in a safety area? This factor remains unknown.

 

Charlotte Deserves Better

            In my opinion, this ordinance will be forcing Charlotte to take a step back, instead of making positive forward strides. Charlotte is a city full of arts, progression, community, and equality. This ordinance does not bring the community together; it does the exact opposite – create inequality and separation. Yes, of course, crime needs to be regulated, but this is clearly not the way. The Queen City is better than this and the people of the city need to understand and examine all the consequences that can come out of such ordinance.

 

 

 

REFERENCES:

[1] Steve Harrison, CMPD to Move Forward with Exclusion Zones Plan, Charlotte Observer, Oct. 12, 2015, http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article38856471.html (last visited Oct. 24, 2015).

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Harrison, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Chrissie Beth, CMPD’s Proposed ‘Public Safety Zones’ will do more Harm than Good, Charlotte Agenda, Oct. 23, 2015, http://www.charlotteagenda.com/22757/cmpds-proposed-public-safety-zones-will-do-more-harm-than-good/ (last visited Oct. 25, 2015).

[9] Harrison, supra note 1.

[10] Id.