Saturday, December 10, 2022

Council adopts bylaw allowing fines for panhandling, littering and spitting

Lethbridge city council adopted its new public places bylaw, which has a start date of July 1. The bylaw gives Lethbridge Police authority to hand out a penalty, starting at $300 for offenses such as littering, graffiti, public urination, spitting, fighting, panhandling and firework use. Coun. Belinda Crowson questioned how the new bylaw would be enforced and it it would be fair at council’s May 10 meeting.

“If this is enforced equally so that everyone is treated the same, nothing in here really has any concern to the public but it is, as I mentioned, those unintended consequences and how it is enforced,” she said. “Talking to grade six students, [I] mentioned that I loiter a lot and I have never had trouble for loitering – they, as young people, mentioned that they get told quite often to move along.”

She voted in favour of second and third reading of the bylaw at the meeting, but said she holds the expectation that it will be enforced fairly and equitably.

The city said the Public Place bylaw will broaden the previous Streets Bylaw, which it is intended to replace a section of and expand on. The bylaw adds additional offences and increased fines, but the city said it is not intended to initiate increased ticketing.

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“This isn’t a license to sort of go out there and start ticketing people for the behaviour, so it’s just to identify many behaviours that really are undesirable and all of us have experienced those behavours and it has to be dealt with and this is one way of dealing with it,” said Coun. Rajko Dodic. “We don’t want to and we are not targeting anybody specifically — this is an equitable remedy and everyone will be treated exactly the same.”

Dodic said he did not share Crowson’s concerns about equitable enforcement. “When police officers obtain their job, they have to swear an oath to uphold the law and to do it fairly and equitably and I take the position that when that oath is taken, I am going to take those folks at their word and that they will do so,” he said. “I am confident and truly believe that it will be equitably dealt with and everyone will be dealt with in the same fashion.”

The city said feedback was gathered from many different groups in consultation for the bylaw including: transportation, infrastructure, Lethbridge Police Services, regulatory services, downtown business owners, the City Solicitors Office and the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee.

During these discussions, and at the request of LPS, a decision was made to separate provisions regulating undesirable public behaviour from the Streets Bylaw and to outline these community standards in a separate Public Places Bylaw, the city said.

RELATED: City committee looks at amendments to public spaces bylaw

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