Las Cruces Police Chief proposes new shopping cart ordinance during City Council work session

Citing public security, blight and bettering high quality of life for residents, Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story introduced two modifications of current ordinances relating to solicitation and proposed a new ordinance relating to shopping cart containment and retrieval.

Story introduced during a City Council work session on Monday. The work session included pushback from some councilors, however had sufficient assist to maneuver ahead to a future assembly.

There was additionally 20 minutes of public remark, principally in assist of the adjustments from native enterprise homeowners however some opposition was voiced, together with from an ACLU advocate and a speaker from New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.

It’s unclear when and if Council can be anticipated to vote for approval for one in all, or all three, ordinances. Mayor Eric Enriquez stated the ordinances could possibly be introduced as quickly as May, however may be later this summer season because the state legislature could possibly be addressing related points in an upcoming special session in July.

“We don’t want to go and then have to come back and change things,” Enriquez stated. “We can’t be anything less than the state so we want to make sure to do what is right.

“It could possibly be sooner if we perceive that we’re on the identical web page with the particular session. There are different municipalities, even within the state of New Mexico, which have already accomplished some adjustments of their panhandling ordinances.”

What the shopping cart containment and retrieval ordinance involves

Story repeatedly stated that members of the unhoused population would not be arrested for possessing a shopping cart. Their property would not be discarded. The goal, he said, is to help businesses, while having services in place to address mental illness or drug addiction, as well as a diversion court established to prevent repeat offenders and incarceration.

“Nobody goes to be arrested for possession of a shopping cart or a violation of solicitation ordinances,” Story said. “The variations between a bodily arrest and a prison quotation on paper will not be a lot, however in actual life, going to jail or getting a bit of paper is a really totally different factor.

“We don’t have the services we need when it comes to mental health in the southern part of New Mexico … we also don’t have the resources we need for substance use. But there are a lot of resources here. They are not at capacity. Why? Because at this point, there is very little ways to compel people to get that treatment.”

According to Story, an April 23 challenge involving LCPD group outreach, codes, parks and recreation and others gathered 162 shopping carts in two hours with a complete worth of $32,000. Walmart was accountable for 132 carts. The challenge mirrored the outcomes of an analogous challenge in 2020.

The ordinance units up a number of necessities for companies that use shopping carts. Businesses can be required to affix an indication/placard to carts and submit a shopping cart plan accepted by group growth that’s to be renewed each two years. Businesses also can apply for an exemption in the event that they already take sure measures towards the theft of carts from their premises. Businesses would have three enterprise days to retrieve shopping carts if notified by town.

Enforcement of the ordinance may embody a requirement {that a} enterprise abides by a unique plan, or violations for people may lead to a petty misdemeanor, between $100 and $500 fines relying on variety of violations inside the identical 12 months. Included within the ordinance is that on the discretion of a sentencing decide, any individual convicted underneath the article could carry out group service, which may encompass coming into remedy for psychological sickness, substance abuse or each.

Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story presented two proposed modified ordinances for solicitation and a new shopping cart ordinance in council chambers at City Hall on Monday, April 29, 2024.Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story presented two proposed modified ordinances for solicitation and a new shopping cart ordinance in council chambers at City Hall on Monday, April 29, 2024.

Las Cruces Police Chief Jeremy Story introduced two proposed modified ordinances for solicitation and a new shopping cart ordinance in council chambers at City Hall on Monday, April 29, 2024.

What the modified ordinances suggest

There have been revisions to 2 current ordinances mentioned involving solicitating and loitering.

According to Story, the adjustments have been minor in nature and made to take away doubtlessly unconstitutional language or to slender the curiosity to public security. Story stated the adjustments ought to enable each ordinances to be enforceable.

In 2018, town revised a few of its panhandling ordinances in response to objections from the American Civil Liberties Union. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court not directly affirmed free speech protections for panhandlers when it dominated an indication ordinance in an Arizona city violated the First Amendment as a result of it restricted the content material of speech on indicators. In 2018, the City suspended enforcement of its ordinances till they could possibly be revised to adjust to free speech protections. City Council voted to revise two ordinances associated to panhandling.

According to a proposed ordinance relating to soliciting, “It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit money or other things of value, or to solicit the sale of goods or services in the manner described in subparagraphs (1) through (3) of this section.

Solicitation is prohibited “in an aggressive method in a public space or non-public property inside metropolis limits.” Additionally, “On non-public property if the proprietor, tenant, or lawful occupant has requested the individual to not solicit on the property, or has posted an indication clearly indicating that solicitations are prohibited on the property.” Finally, “From any occupant of a motorized vehicle that’s in site visitors on a public road, if the solicitation would trigger any individual to stroll upon a portion of the roadway not clearly designated and/or marked for pedestrian foot site visitors.”

The term, “aggressive” in existing code defines soliciting that includes physically touching another person without consent; following a person being solicited in a manner where the person to fear physical harm; continuing to solicit within five feet of a person who has made a negative response; blocking the safe passage of a person being solicited; intentionally using obscene or abusive language or gestures; and approaching a person in a manner the person fears imminent harm or is intended to intimidate the person being solicited.

The “standing or loitering on or close to road or freeway ordinance” would make it unlawful for any person to stand or loiter on a street or highway when such activity, “(1) Causes the individual performing the exercise to enter onto the traveled portion of a road or freeway. (2) The individual performing the exercise is positioned such that autos can not transfer right into a authorized parking space safely.”

It would also be unlawful, ” to face or loiter on any freeway included within the interstate system together with any entrance to or exit from the freeway.” The traveled portion of the street or highway shall mean that portion of the road normally used by moving motor vehicle traffic, according to the ordinance.

Story said there were 23 total pedestrian crashes in 2020 and there were 45 pedestrian crashes in 2023.

Council will move forward with items, but concerns voiced

Enriquez, District 1 Councilor Cassie McClure, District 2 Councilor Bill Mattiace and District 3 Councilor Becky Graham all voiced support to move the ordinances to a future meeting for a potential vote.

District 6 Councilor Yvonne Flores did not suggest moving them forward.

“I discover it a bit harsh,” Flores said during the work session. “You (Chief Story) did contact on psychological competency. It’s to not say there’s a downside. I acknowledge there’s a downside. I do not know if that is the answer.”

Mayor Pro Temp Johana Bencomo said if the ordinances move forward, she would propose a needs assessment for individuals when interacting with law enforcement, that the City’s LIGHT team is used when responding to individuals when possible and for the city to support adding at least two staff members to the community outreach team at Community of Hope.

Bencomo did express doubts that the ordinances would have the desired effect, and could add to the problems the unhoused already face.

“If we proceed with one thing like this, I deeply consider we could also be making issues worse,” Bencomo said. “But as we transfer ahead, I additionally wish to ensure there’s as a lot hurt discount as doable. I wish to come to the desk and be a very good group participant.”

Graham ultimately voiced support for the ordinances, placing her trust in Story and his department.

“I belief that our officers will, in good religion, work to search out the vital stability crucial to enhance security and safety for all residents whereas additionally growing the possibility that these going through challenges like dependancy and psychological well being points will plug into accessible sources,” stated Graham whereas studying from a ready assertion.

Jason Groves might be reached at 575-541-5459 or [email protected]. Follow him on X @jpgroves.

This article initially appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Las Cruces Police Chief proposes new shopping cart ordinance during City Council work session

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