March 11, 2014. Summerville. Charleston Post & Courier. Summerville Public Safety Director Bruce Owens wants to toughen the existing town law against loitering, to give police "legal footing" to enforce it on private properties, he told Town Council at a committee meeting Monday. The American Civil Liberties Union's South Carolina office has concerns with how a proposed amendment intends to do that.
The existing law applies to public places and people who "create or cause to create disturbance to the comfort and repose of any other person" by anything from loud noise to actually breaking the law.
The proposed amendment says no person "shall loiter or prowl in a place or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant alarm."
Asked about the proposal by Councilman Aaron Brown, Owens said it provides an extra layer of protection for the public and the police.
But loitering laws of that sort can be overly broad and vague, not fully protecting an individual's rights to free speech and to congregate, said Victoria Middleton, ACLU South Carolina executive director.
"It's not clear this ordinance has avoided those problems," she said. Referring to one point in it, she said, "How can you prove someone has 'unlawful intent' when they 'watch, gaze or look upon the occupants (in a dwelling place)?'?"
The proposed law goes to a preliminary Town Council vote at Wednesday's meeting, 7:30 p.m., Town Hall complex, 200 S. Main St.