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Mayor’s plan ignores real issues behind crime

A new city ordinance proposed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would allow the public safety director great range in applying fines, or even second-degree misdemeanor charges, to “disruptive properties.” Whether or not a property is “disruptive” would be determined by software which counts 911 calls that include complaints about drugs, guns, drunkenness, excessive noise, building code violations, or even owning too many pets. Three calls in a single month would result in fines or charges for the owner of the property.

These new “disruptive property” fines and charges would presumably have the greatest effect on low-income neighborhoods where crime is more prevalent. It seems Ravenstahl thinks that simply issuing fines and charges to homeowners in crime-ridden areas will solve drug and gun problems in these areas. “I firmly believe that this legislation today is the necessary tool for us to really be able to crack down,” Ravenstahl said.

Not so, Mr. Ravenstahl. The proposed ordinance will treat the symptoms but not the disease. To combat crime, Mr. Ravenstahl needs to consider the deeper reasons that result in the prevalence of drugs and drunkenness — the environment that produces and sustains crime. The ordinance is an attempt at a quick-fix solution that won’t solve anything.

Though the intent of the ordinance may be good, it is not well thought-out. Besides the fact that it won’t actually solve any of the problems it purports to address, the proposal might also interfere with residents’ property rights; the proposal has already received the American Civil Liberties Union’s attention.

Additionally, the ordinance may make it more difficult for students to find rental houses. Student house parties generate a good deal of complaints about underage drinking and noise, and if landlords are frequently forced to pay fines and face misdemeanor charges, they may refuse to rent to law-abiding students in the future.