YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Youngstown Mayor John McNally proposed a law to prevent people from drinking, loitering and sleeping on the sidewalks downtown.
He was hoping city council would pass the bill Wednesday night, but they are leaving it for a committee meeting scheduled next week.
Now McNally hopes to see the loitering bill in place by the end of the summer to address the problem that he says has grown in the last two years.
“We’re concerned about people who are sometimes laying down on the sidewalks, who’ve got sleeping bags,” he said.
McNally says there are a few dozen people who are consistently drinking, sleeping or bothering people along the downtown sidewalks.
“Quite frankly, our police officers know who they’re looking for.”
Many downtown patrons are concerned that this law would give cops license to harass people, but McNally says that wouldn’t happen.
“We’re not looking to put people in jail, we’re not looking to make downtown a police state, but we do have to move some people along.”
One area he says is a problem is West Federal Plaza. O’Donold’s bar, located in that area, has its own way of dealing with people loitering on the patio.
“Ask them politely to leave and usually they’re more than compliant to abide by the rules. It’s a customers-only patio but there have never been any problems for us,” said manager Kiki Novosel.
A man inside O’Donold’s said the loitering law would be good for stopping drug dealers downtown, so he would be in favor of it.
In a turn of events, he was stopped by police on the sidewalk about 15 minutes later and poured out the drink in his hand.
McNally says open container laws are one way to police what he calls Youngstown’s “problem children,” with or without a loitering law.
“Regardless of if the ordinance is in place, we’re still going to enforce things and make sure people feel safe and welcome downtown.”
Youngstown’s law department says its downtown loitering bill is based on a similar one in Cincinnati. They say that one has been reviewed and is in line with the Ohio Constitution.
The department will discuss the bill further at a committee meeting next Thursday.