Council grapples with loitering issue |

Council grapples with loitering issue

Lee and Lauren Hardin thought they had found a place to sit down and eat their lunch Monday on Seventh Street in downtown Glenwood Springs when something changed their mind.”We turned around because of a large crowd of what appeared to be transient folk,” Lee Hardin said.The Grand Junction residents ended up finding privacy under the shelter on Seventh with their 4-month-old daughter Lauren and their dog, and enjoying the take-out meal they had bought across the street at Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse.When transients concern customers of downtown businesses, they concern business owners as well. Casey Christianson, co-owner of the Maple Table Bakery & Cafe on Seventh Street, raised the issue with City Council at its meeting last week.”I know there’s a lot of sensitivity (about transients) … but it does affect businesses downtown,” he said.He said transients sometimes whistle and yell at others in the area, causing them to leave. Christianson believes the transients have become a drawback in what is a beautiful part of the downtown core.Council member Kris Chadwick thinks Christianson has a point.”I know I see it as well, and it’s an issue,” she said.But Christianson said police say they won’t do anything about the problem because of City Council.Mayor Bruce Christensen said that whoever told Christianson that is “seriously mistaken.”He noted that the city passed an ordinance addressing a panhandling problem in certain parts of town. While the city wants to be humane toward transients, it also wants to address merchants’ concerns, and council will check with city staff to see what can be done, he said.However, city attorney Karl Hanlon said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that cities can’t prohibit loitering. But Christensen said the city at least should be able to deal with public drunkenness.Actually, no, said city Police Chief Terry Wilson.”That was declared an unconstitutional thing to arrest someone on as well,” he said.Police can intervene if a drunken person is a danger to themselves or others, but being drunk in public isn’t illegal in and of itself.”We have a situation where people are looking for a law enforcement solution to what is essentially a behavioral, societal issue. The solution is not going to be found in Colorado Revised Statutes,” Wilson said.He noted that panhandling also can’t be outright banned. However, it can be prohibited in certain locations where it creates an unsafe situation for motorists, as the city did near the McDonald’s Restaurant on Highway 82 and at the exit ramp off Interstate 70 at the city’s main exit.”It did greatly reduce what we had going on,” Wilson said.Begging of an aggressive or repeated nature also can be prohibited, but police need a complaining witness or victim, and many people who report incidents to police don’t want to go to court, Wilson said.Glenwood resident James Rogers doesn’t see what the problem is downtown. He said he finds Seventh Street an enjoyable place to sit and read, and while he doesn’t know many of the people who hang out there, he rarely sees any problems. They just like to sit and drink coffee and talk with friends, he said.”These people are good people down here for the most part. They’re good people,” he said. Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext.

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