With a prime Church Street location in Burlington, the clothing store Whim is a common stop for shoppers. Owner Melissa Desautels says the location is great because of all the foot traffic, but says there can be a dark side to Church Street.
"There is the other aspect of people hanging out, swearing, smoking cigarettes, just being loud and aggressive behavior toward one another," Desautels said.
But the city is aiming to change certain behavior on the street, and they're doing it with a trespassing ordinance. Illegal behavior like disorderly conduct, possession of illegal drugs, unlawful mischief or open alcohol containers will now result in trespassing citations.
"First offense would be the balance of the day, second would be for 90 days and the third would be up to a year," Burlington Deputy Police Chief Andi Higbee said.
Burlington police say a similar trespassing ordinance was passed for City Hall Park. They say that ordinance has significantly cut down on illegal activity.
"I'm never bothered by this activity. I see a vibrant community," said Jared Carter of the Vermont Community Law Center.
Carter says he understands the concerns, but says the trespassing ordinance might have constitutional implications.
"I'm concerned for the First Amendment values that are implicated by telling someone they're no longer allowed to be here," Carter said.
"Hopefully, this is yet another tool to make them realize this illegal behavior can not be tolerated downtown," Higbee said.
"It takes away from the experience of Church Street and gives it a bad name so people don't want to come down here," Desautels said.
Folks who are issued a trespassing citation can fight it before an appeals board made up of a community member, a social services worker and a marketplace employee.
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