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Proposed Anti Cruising Ordinance Raises Concerns

24 May 1999 Published in Local Policy Work

The ACLU of Utah Sends a Letter to Salt Lake City Council Members Opposing the Proposed Anti-Cruising Ordinance

 

May 25, 1999

Salt Lake City Council
451 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111

Re: Proposed Cruising Ordinance

Honorable Council Members:

We write with respect to the proposed city ordinance that would prohibit cruising in certain portions of the city during nighttime hours. Although weekend cruising by young people throughout the city raises important concerns, the proposed ordinance is a questionable response to these concerns in terms of both law and public policy.

The proposed prohibition against cruising is not unlike a curfew law, in that it seeks to criminalize lawful conduct and in that it extends to innocuous behavior far removed from the problem it seeks to remedy. The ACLU has consistently opposed such measures as unconstitutional infringements of civil liberties, and courts throughout the country have agreed by overturning curfew laws in numerous states. Typically, law enforcement officers cannot stop a driver unless they have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. However, under the proposed no-cruising ordinance, law-abiding citizens may be penalized simply because they have driven past a traffic control point twice at the forbidden time period. This action amounts to an unconstitutionally vague restriction on the fundamental freedoms of movement, assembly and expression.

Furthermore, the proposed measure is an inappropriate and ineffective solution to the problems caused by cruising. The primary responsibility for monitoring the behavior of juveniles rests with parents, not police or politicians. Enforcement of this ordinance will not prevent minors from cruising the streets on weekends; instead, it will divert police officers from responding to actual crimes such as murder, rape and robbery. In fact, law enforcement experts have stressed that curfews and similar laws do not reduce criminal activity and are rarely enforced by police. The proposed anti-cruising law is essentially a politically oriented quick-fix to a complex social problem better addressed by parents and families.

Finally, the ACLU of Utah urges the City Council not to adopt yet another measure that could be selectively enforced against the City’s racial and ethnic minorities. Effective, neutral enforcement of existing traffic and other laws can address any conduct that causes disruption to traffic or constitutes criminal activity, without giving law enforcement an additional basis to target unfairly certain members of our community.

The ACLU of Utah respectfully urges you to consider alternative approaches to this issue that do not resort to such a drastic infringement of civil liberties.

Very truly yours,

Stephen C. Clark
Legal Director