The City of Fayetteville has a new tool it can use to rein in loitering. City Police Attorney Michael Parker came across a state statute that’s been on the books for more than 30 years. G.S.14-275.1 governs disorderly conduct at bus or railroad stations and airports.
Until recently, City Attorney Karen McDonald believed the city could not enforce loitering laws because of long standing Supreme Court decisions. The statute says in part that “Any person shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor if such person while at or upon the premises of any bus station, depot or terminal shall engage in disorderly conduct, or … without having necessary business there loiter and loaf after being requested to leave by any peace officer or by any person lawfully in charge of such premises.”
Officials say discovery of this state law is significant. The Center for Problem-Solving Policing notes courts have held that laws that specify places where panhandling is not allowed are constitutional. This statute is being added to the police blue book of enforceable city ordinances and state statutes, said Deputy City Manager Kristoff Bauer. It should be a “helpful tool in combatting loitering should problems develop at the new downtown FAST bus terminal now under construction,” he said. A city ordinance prohibits panhandling in the downtown area. Officials believe it should help prevent street people from begging at or near the new transit center.
“Officers have zero tolerance for the violation” in the downtown area, said police spokesman, Lt. Todd Joyce. “Officers assigned to downtown patrol will include the new bus terminal in their normal patrol functions,” he added.
Transit Director Randy Hume says construction of the center is expected to be completed by January. Safety and security have been top of mind for city officials. Five exterior surveillance cameras monitored by police are to be installed around the transit center, and there will be 30 cameras inside the building, said Hume.
Two security guards will be on duty from 5 a.m. – 11 p.m. daily, with one guard during the overnight hours. They will be equipped with two-way radios. Because Greyhound Lines will be moving its terminal operation from Person Street to the FAST Transit Center, it will share in operational costs of security and maintenance. The issue of vagrancy and loitering in and around the Greyhound station is not something city officials believe will be transferred to the new location off Russell and Robeson Streets.
“There are two distinct issues here,” said Bauer, “poverty and behavior.” Being poor is not unconstitutional, he said, whereas behaving badly can be. He notes the Person Street bus station is in an area where behaviors have been an issue. A police survey determined that the area of downtown where the FAST Center is located has not been a problem spot. Its location adjacent to police headquarters should also help deter crime.