New Trespass Law
The Gainesville Police Department is stepping up to prevent people from causing problems by using a new trespass law. This however, is not all that simple.
If a bar or other establishment joins GDOT or the Gainesville Downtown Owners and Tenants Association, they have the right to ban problem customers from their establishment as well as other GDOT members for one year.
GPD says this will lesson crime in the bar scene. But could a person's constitutional rights be at stake?
Tom Blake has worked at Lillians for 29 years and supports his bar's membership to GDOT. "The major reason we want to have it, this trespass law, is so our customers could feel lively in their establishment," says Blake.
GPD's John Franklin says that there is a small percentage of people that cause problems in the entertainment district downtown. "If you remove them its taking that negative element out and it's a much safer and more pleasant for the rest of the patrons that come in," says Sgt. Franklin.
But how will these trouble makers be removed? Law enforcement is going to keep track of people using color pictures of them. The photos will be distributed among GDOT members. Tom Blake says he plans on having a wall of shame at his bar to keep track of trespassers. "You'd have that there for people and that way it would be easy to identify immediately," says Blake.
But being cited for trespassing is not all that simple. Civil Rights Attorney Robert Rush says one of the most common problems in a fight is figuring out who started it. And who was merely defending oneself.
"You really have to know who it is that is the perpetrator of the criminal activity or the disruptive activity first. In the bar scenes, sometimes that can be difficult," says Rush.
And this is when the trespass law can be challenged. "Their freedom of association as guaranteed by the First Amendment is being deprived by unreasonable government action particularly against someone who is saying I can't go to these places I did nothing wrong and I was denied the process of the law when they issued this. I have a right to challenge it. I have the right to be heard."
Mr. Rush hasn't dealt with any challenges yet because the law is so new and still in its infancy. GPD's John Franklin says this concept is established based on the Southwest 13th Street prostitution problems in local hotels. Bars who are not participating in this program can still ban troublemakers on their own.
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