It has been said that some fences are built to keep people in, and some fences are built to keep people out.
It also has been said — by a prosecuting attorney, no less, who was speaking entirely tongue-in-cheek to an overzealous subordinate — that the Bill of Rights is a pesky thing that sometimes gets in the way of what you want to do. (Which, we would add, is the reason the Founding Fathers created it in the first place.)
Action is being taken to install temporary wooden railings around the downtown mall’s planters as a means of discouraging loiterers.
The idea of using decorative Victorian-style metal railings that would fit in with the downtown’s architecture was dismissed on grounds it would create a “jailed-in appearance.”
As we said, fences around jails and prisons are built to keep people in; the intent of these wooden fences is to keep people out.
Loitering, bad language, offensive behavior and the like have been an issue ever since part of Baltimore Street was closed off and turned into the downtown mall.
No one disputes that, or the detrimental impact these things have on the downtown’s businesses or citizens who find reason to visit the mall.
One thing to consider is that the mall has become a gathering place for such things as entertainment, art-related activities, car displays, the Heritage Festival and the farmer’s market.
People who attend these events, and tourists, frequently sit on these planters to relax or enjoy the proceedings because there aren’t enough conventional seating arrangements.
Railings around the planters will keep them from doing so, and they may decide to go someplace else — particularly those who are elderly or infirm and need to sit down.
Laws that do not violate provisions of the Bill of Rights exist when it comes to deterring offensive behavior. The city has code-enforcement officers who work closely with Cumberland Police to prevent violations of the law and city codes.
Strict and consistent enforcement of these laws is the answer, not fence-building.