Peter Zeller suggests the repeal of the lurking ordinance in MInneapolis has tied the hands of law enforcement, thereby creating an environment ripe for the recent shootings in the city (“There ought to be a law to prevent that...Oh, wait!” Oct. 13). This is as illogical as saying heavy rainfall was caused by a drip in my kitchen sink.
Elementary logic demands that Zeller know what the lurking ordinance was before citing its loss as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Unfortunately, he has no idea what lurking is; many of us don’t.
The repealed Minneapolis lurking ordinance read: “No person ... shall lurk, lie in wait, or be concealed with intent to commit any crime or unlawful act.”
The lurking ordinance would not have prevented a large group of Northside gang members from walking in the area of the First Police Precinct on Fourth Street. The lurking ordinance would not have prevented mob-like groups from blocking sidewalks, stealing cellphones, and harassing or sucker-punching people at bar closing. Why? Because none of the groups was “lurking.” They were walking and standing in an open public area, which is the constitutional right of every American.
The lurking ordinance may have been a proactive tool used by some officers, but it was not the only one, nor was it a good one. Among the reasons for its repeal was that it was vague, overly broad and unconstitutional.
Zeller seems to suggest that the lurking ordinance’s potential for arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement is acceptable to prevent bigger crimes by blacks, who supposedly are committing crimes at rates significantly higher than their percentage of the population. However, two wrongs (the lurking ordinance and racial profiling) don’t make a right.
Police have a number of tools to fight crime. At the most basic level, an officer can base an investigatory stop on a reasonable, articulable suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed. Additionally, Minneapolis ordinance prohibits a group of persons from assembling on “any sidewalk so as to obstruct the free passage of pedestrians thereon or interfere with the use thereof.” Minnesota law prohibits the stealing of cellphones and harassment or sucker-punching of people. There are other laws on the books that can be used to fight crime.
History has shown that police have adapted successfully after changes in law or policy. Few, if any, major cities have a lurking law like ours. I have faith that police will continue their great work without the lurking ordinance and racial profiling.
It’s easy to blame an insignificant ordinance for the increase in shootings. If we are honest, the biggest single factor is the availability of guns.
Blong Yang is a member of the Minneapolis City Council.