The Riverton City Council approved a new loitering ordinance on second reading this week, including some changes to the initial proposal.
The ordinance now notes that private property must be designated as “closed” or marked with a “no loitering” sign in order for the law to be enforced.
City administrator Kyle Butterfield said the modified language lets police remove people from private property without involving the property owner, who might not be available – especially when incidents occur in the middle of the night.
The city’s current loitering ordinance refers to people who “have refused to leave … after they have been requested to do so” by the property owner – but Butterfield pointed out that, “if it’s 2 a.m., it’s hard for that private property or business owner to orally or verbally notify someone, (because they’re) likely sleeping at that time.”
“This (change) does allow the police officers to say, ‘This business is clearly marked as closed,’ … and they could cite individuals for loitering,” Butterfield said.
Mayor Tim Hancock said the new language “narrows” the parameters of the ordinance in order to specifically address “the concerns we had expressed from business owners.”
For example, if the ordinance becomes law, Hancock said police will be able to intervene if someone is “sitting there hanging out after a business is closed, trying to see the best way to get in.”
“We don’t have to wait until they actually break a window or get in a door,” he said. “If the building is closed, you can’t just be sitting there hanging around on the property.”
Councilmember Karla Borders asked if the ordinance would apply to alley dumpsters, noting that business owners have complained about “the mess that people leave after they go rooting through” the trash containers.
“The business owners (are) left to have to clean it up, and that just doesn’t seem fair to me,” Borders said.
Riverton Police Department Capt. Wes Romero said the proposed ordinance would be enforceable in those situations as long as the dumpster is on private property and not in the public right-of-way.
“I think this ordinance addresses a lot of the concerns the community has been bringing up lately about this problem in our town,” Councilmember Kristy Salisbury said. “So I think it’s a really good idea to get this in place (and give) police officers a tool to enforce it.”
Resident Wayne Dick disagreed, however, suggesting the city “fine tune” its trespassing ordinance instead.
“You’ve got an ordinance on trespassing that is black and white,” Dick said. “I think a little look at that might behoove you guys before you (pass this).”
The council has to approve the proposed new loitering ordinance one more time before it becomes law, Hancock pointed out, and “we are always willing to consider looking at language and thinking of different ways of doing things.”
“If you’re thinking this might not fit the bill … we can keep discussing (it),” he said. “(We) certainly appreciate feedback.”
For more information call the City of Riverton at 856-2227.