The Leesburg Town Council last week approved some tweaks to its loitering ordinance in hopes of providing law enforcement another tool to address residents’ complaints.
According to the staff report, individuals regularly occupying the same area of public property have proven difficult to prosecute under the current Town Code. Staff members reviewed how other jurisdictions respond the conduct and discussed alternatives to law enforcement action.
The proposed changes would make it illegal for anyone “to stand, assemble or loiter upon any sidewalk, street, public ground or public way in the Town so as to obstruct, hinder or impede free passage upon or along same or obstruct, hinder or impede free ingress or egress to and from any place of business, institution or public building or property.” It also would be illegal to occupy a sidewalk or other public space in a way that would exclude or interfere with the general public’s use and enjoyment.
The proposal also would require offenders comply with the property owner or police requests to move.
According to the staff report, the town Police Department “typically takes a personal health and welfare-based approach, rather than an enforcement first approach with respect to homeless individuals. Officers conduct regular welfare checks on homeless individuals as well as providing them with information about services and shelters and offering them transportation. … However, both LPD and the Town Attorney’s Office also believe that amending the Town Code in this manner will provide an additional tool in the event that there are individuals who decline services and unreasonably occupy and tend to monopolize public space.”
Violations of the ordinance are subject to fine of up to $500, but repeat offenders could face up to six months in jail.