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Carrboro’s repeal of anti-lingering ordinance sees mixed reaction from residents

Stephen Dear and Maria Darlington have lunch on the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie Roads in Carrboro in protest of the anti-lingering ordinance. Stephen has spent his lunch break during the week on this corner since the last week in October and is joined by friends and supporters daily.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen’s unanimous vote to repeal the anti-lingering ordinance for the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie Roads is seeing a mixed response from the community.

The ordinance, passed in 2007 in response to complaints about disruptive behavior on the corner, prohibited people from lingering there except between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Civil rights activists who had formed a coalition against the ordinance said they hope the repeal will encourage a better relationship between Davie Road residents and the day laborers who wait on the corner each morning to find work.

“It’s long overdue, but it’s a start to a better future for our community,” said Stephen Dear, who showed his opposition to the ordinance by eating lunch at the corner every weekday from Oct. 27 until its repeal on Nov. 22.

While the majority of those who attended the meeting supported the repeal, several residents are concerned about disruptive behavior on the corner throughout the day. The ban was first enacted because of problems like drinking alcohol and public urination.

“For years the neighbors had to tolerate rude encounters with drunken men in the afternoon or whenever we tried to visit any business at the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie,” Shelley Higgins, a property owner on Davie Road, wrote in an email to town officials.

She also said the issue does not involve racial discrimination.

“If the day laborers were Asian UNC students or elderly folks in wheelchairs, I would feel the same way,” she wrote. “The problem is the behavior.”

But according to a report by Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison, while the ordinance reduced loitering at the corner, crimes like fighting and disorderly conduct that are thought to be related to loitering remained fairly constant.

“Folks that oppose the ordinance are not condoning bad actions by bad actors,” said Chris Brook, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “They’re just saying that the ordinance is not the best way to deal with those problems.”

To address concerns about the repeal, aldermen are looking into a stronger anti-harassment policy and a resource officer to regulate behavior on the corner.

Brook said he and other human rights activists are interested in hearing more about these options, but ultimately it is up to town officials.

“The ball’s in the town’s court on these issues now,” he said.

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