ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Albany Common Council passed a loitering ordinance Monday night while many community organizers showed up to city hall to rally against the law. The council member who introduced the legislation talked to NEWS10 about how it will be enforced.
Albany Common Council Member Owusu Anane said the loitering ordinance is meant to reinforce existing laws – and is geared toward people who are dealing drugs, gambling, or are engaged in other illegal activity – and does not specifically target the homeless.
“No one in the city of Albany should be afraid to go visit restaurants, or local businesses or local parks because of being intimidated by what they might have to experience,” said Anane.
He said business owners and family members have all had complaints about loitering. Anane said constituents complain about the quality of life and business owners said it negatively impacts business. Jason Pierce is the president of the Albany Restaurant Association and is one of those owners.
“Most recently someone took out their genitalia and urinated next to the window of one of our restaurants and people don’t want to see that. It needs to be illegal and now it is and most importantly, now the police can arrest someone for doing these things without having witnessed it themselves,” said Pierce.
When it comes to how the law will be enforced Anane said they will, in large part, rely on the public’s help.
“We are short 60 police officers currently, so it relies on our neighbors and also our community to be active participants when it comes to making sure quality of life is addressed,” said Anane.
“Now that this legislation is in effect, we are hoping that residents would communicate and reach out to law-enforcement, if they see something they say something,” said Pierce. “If there is some criminal behavior taking place on any street corner or in front of your porch, reach out to law-enforcement. You can give them a sworn statement or a video as evidence.”
Although Anane said it is not about criminalizing the poor, some believe that’s the effect it will have.
“We know this law will be used to punish poor and homeless people, and attempt to remove them from public view,” said Albany Common Council Member Gabriella Romero. “Ticketing someone who can’t afford to pay it is not going to solve homelessness. We can’t ticket our way out of poverty.”
Anane said he trusts Albany police officers will not abuse their power and is confident in the Community Police Review Board’s ability to hold officers accountable – if needed.
“This is exactly the kind of legislation that we need to pass and put in place, and most importantly, enforce so that people can have a more comfortable enjoyable day and live their life free of the kind of harassment we all expect to be free from,” said Pierce.