A $150 fine awaits people visiting Central Park after hours
The Decatur City Council will vote on whether Decatur Police Officers should begin fining individuals a minimum of $150 for walking through Central Park and Preston Jackson Park between 10 PM and 6 AM. If you are a tourist visiting the city’s most iconic landmark you would be fined, if you are walking your dog you would be fined, if you are sitting on a bench you would be fined, and if you are getting off the night shift taking the shortest route from one street to another you would be fined under the ordinance. I am opposed to closing public downtown open spaces and fining residents and tourists that want to enjoy the city’s most iconic locales.
Why do some council members want to fine visitors and residents to downtown destinations? Allegedly, some homeless individuals may use Central Park and closing the park is a way to keep them out without the city being accused of targeting unsheltered people. However, levying a $150 to $500 fine against someone who does not have the money may perpetuate the challenges they are having. What’s next, will the council ask Decatur Police Officers to arrest homeless individuals who do not pay their fines? Will the homeless than be held in jail until they can pay their bail which they won’t be able to pay?
The closures are also allegedly a result of vandalism taking place at Central Park. However, if the problem is that vandalism and other illegal acts are occurring after hours, solutions may include increased security and the addition of cameras. Decatur Police Officers fining residents and tourists for visiting public spaces will cast the city in a significant negative light and unnecessarily penalizes law-abiding citizens from using their public property.
Decatur is currently facing a very high level of violent crime. Shootings YTD thru October 2022 are up 82% compared to YTD 2019. There have been 2,076 traffic accidents YTD thru October as a result of speeding, texting, impairment, and other factors. Our city needs its police officers focused on keeping our citizens safe and not fining tourists, third-shift workers, and dog walkers for visiting our most famous landmarks. Closing these downtown parks is poor public policy.