CEDAR FALLS — A proposed new ordinance that prohibits loitering is expected to help police better deal with groups obstructing public areas, particularly on College Hill.
The City Council this week approved the first of three readings on the measure.
An amendment to chapter 16-39 of the city’s code of ordinances will make it unlawful to “congregate, stand, loaf or loiter” on any public property or right-of-way and beside any building open to the public in a way that stops people from passing through the area. Violations will be a simple misdemeanor.
“Over the years, we’ve had some problems on College Hill,” said Public Safety Director Jeff Olson, and met with business owners about it. “This is one of the ideas we talked about with merchants.”
Several of those problems have occurred in the 2200 block of College Street. Early in the morning of Jan. 1, 2019, two people got shot in the area. Later that year, on Aug. 10, a large fight occurred there that eventually resulted in 13 people being arrested.
“The real design of this ordinance is to prevent (disturbances from) individuals who are on the Hill to create problems,” said Olson, usually late at night or early in the morning. He suggested some of the issues police encounter don’t meet the standard of disorderly conduct, so the new ordinance would “fill the gap” in those cases.
The ordinance states that it is not intended to “prohibit peaceful picketing, public speaking or other lawful expression” as well as activities for which a license or permit has been issued.
In response to questions from council members, Olson said that it won’t prohibit activities such as an artist painting or a musician performing in a public area or along a sidewalk, either.
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