Alley Liberties

Posted by Nick Sieger Thu, 01 Jun 2006 03:54:00 GMT

And now, a break from the tech- and ruby-related tidbits to add some color to a local issue.

Today a news story of seemingly minor consequence passed through the local news outlets on a proposal for a possible new Minneapolis city ordinance:

The proposal would prohibit anyone from walking in an alley who doesn’t live on that block or who isn’t a guest of someone who does. Police, paramedics and firefighters would be exempt, as would garbage haulers, meter readers, code inspectors and others whose jobs take them there.

Before you call your councilperson and complain that your tax dollars will be wasted, or you call the ACLU and complain that your civil liberties will be infringed, consider this.

It strikes me as no small coincidence that my next-door neighbor was shot at point-blank range last night by an assailant who was attempting to car-jack him. He’s doing fine now, fortunately he had his wits about him and the bullet only grazed his midsection before he retreated back into his garage until the authorities arrived.

Would the ordinance have helped my neighbor in this case? Probably not. But what it will do is give the police a legal reason to patrol alleys and question conspicuous behavior. Fast-forward to a time in the future where the ordinance has been in effect for a while and has made Minneapolis neighborhoods safer, and maybe the environment for the crime doesn’t even exist anymore.

One legitimate question is whether an ordinance like this would give police more power to abuse and make it easier to profile and harass people with no other probable cause.

For now, given my personal experience, I’ll gladly give up my right to walk in other alleys in exchange for safety. Why would you want to be back there anyway?

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