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Safety Committee Debates Exclusion Zones

Gwendolyn Glenn/WFAE

Wednesday, the city council’s safety committee will discuss whether high-crime areas in Charlotte should be off-limits to those who commit crimes in them. Committee members will decide if the issue makes it to the full council.

The discussion will focus on whether public safety or exclusion zones should be set up in areas of the city experiencing increased crime. The idea being weighed would allow people to be banned from the zone areas if they committed crimes such as drug dealing, shootings or prostitution. Safety committee member Al Austin supports the idea and so do many residents in the Beatties Ford Road corridor, which he represents. But committee Chairwoman Claire Fallon questions whether exclusion zones would stigmatize a neighborhood and violate people’s civil rights.

So does the local ACLU. Its leaders sent a letter to the committee Wednesday, saying the zones could infringe on people’s constitutional rights to freely move about in the city and their rights to associate with whomever they choose. They say such zones in cities such as Portland, Oregon have proved ineffective in reducing crime, but simply moved it to areas outside of the safety zone. This was the case in Charlotte 10 years ago with prostitution-free zones on Wilkinson Boulevard. The activity simply moved to nearby neighborhoods.