The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the Charlotte City Council are considering designating certain areas in Charlotte, North Carolina as “public safety zones.” People with past arrests will be prohibited from entering these zones.
Under the current proposal, police Chief Kerr Putney could designate certain high crime areas as a safety zone. Anybody arrested for crimes in the area could be issued a notice that they are no longer allowed to enter as long as the safety zone is in effect.
Anyone entering the zone after they have been prohibited could be charged with a misdemeanor.
People that get banned from the areas are allowed to file an appeal for reasons that include going into the area to go to work or to pick up their kids from school.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the safety zones are similar to the “prostitution-free zones” that were started in 2005. The ordinance lasted for three years and was not renewed after it expired in 2008.
Council member Al Austin, who represents northwest Charlotte, said he floated the idea of the zones to former Chief Rodney Monroe.
“We were looking for additional tools that could address some of the criminal behavior,” Austin said. “We want something more flexible.”
The city has tried different tactics to try and lower the crime rate. In 2013, the city received an injunction against the Hidden Valley Kings gang.
The injunction prohibited gang members from “driving, standing, sitting, walking or appearing together in public view.” It also prevented them from possessing firearms and drugs or being in the presence of anyone who does.
In addition to the injunction against the Hidden Valley Kings, the city has used a public nuisance ordinance. The public nuisance ordinance gives the city the ability to seize private property from owners who continually have police come to their property.
When asked about her thoughts on the public safety zones, City Council member Claire Fallon said, “Truthfully, I don’t know if they will do any good, if someone doesn’t obey the law, do you think a safety zone will impress them?”
Fallon added that she is worried that the safety zones will just force criminals to move their activity to another part of the city.
“We would take it off the plate of one community and then put them on another community,” she said.