Kalamazoo passes law decriminalizing public urination, defecation
In cities like San Francisco, residents rebelled after quality-of-life crimes like these were ignored.
In Kalamazoo, business owners are deeply concerned following a vote by city leaders to decriminalize public urination, defecation and littering – among other offenses – in a new city ordinance all under the guise of “equitable changes.”
“They are still a violation of our ordinances it just no longer carries a criminal sentence,” said City Attorney Clyde Robinson. However, this change could lead the city down the disastrous path blazed by places like San Francisco whose residents rebelled after quality of life crimes were ignored.
But small business owners seeking an economic recovery after the devastating effects of the pandemic and related government restrictions are showing great concern. Two local business owners recently talked to a local news outlet about the ways in which public urination and defecation impacts their businesses.
Becky Bil, co-owner of Pop City Popcorn in downtown Kalamazoo, said there are aggressive and unstable panhandlers in the area and she is concerned about people avoiding downtown because of these issues.
“People have to clean up where they have defecated right in front of your door of your business,” Bil said. “We can’t have that downtown.”
Many don’t see how lesser punishments will make the downtown area more attractive to customers.
Monte Janssen, owner of Youz Guys Dogz, said, “I think it would probably allow people to think they can do what they want and not get in trouble for it. I think it’ll take away the consequence and that’s the concern.”
Janssen believes that police officers should be able to decide whether a violation warrants criminal action or a fine. “Now you’re taking some of the discretion out of their hands, where if someone is doing a blatant violation, they should have a harsher punishment than someone who simply is doing it out of an absolute need,” he said.
In fact, the city’s new-found leniency ignores the historic success other cities have had when they got more aggressive in combating public urination.
Those with longer memories than the Kalamazoo City Council recall that cracking down on low-level offenses—loitering, subway fare-jumping, and public urination, for example—not only fail to improve quality of life but offenders often turn out to be involved in more serious criminal behavior.
Ignoring common sense and historic successes to advance new-found theories in policies and political agendas has been disastrous in cities across the country like San Francisco, Chicago and Portland.