Kalamazoo, MI – People who choose to defecate, urinate, or toss litter throughout the streets of Kalamazoo will no longer risk jail time after city leaders voted to decriminalize such offenses in the interest of making the city more “equitable.”
The Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously voted to amend more than two dozen sections of ordinance codes during its meeting on July 18, WWMT reported.
As a result, six violations that were formerly misdemeanor offenses punishable by jail time are now civil infractions subject to fines only.
Public defecation, public urination, and littering are among the offenses city commissioners opted to decriminalize, WXMI reported.
Kalamazoo City Commissioner Chris Praedel said the city commission wanted to make laws fairer and more equitable for the homeless people who are most impacted by them.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize is a misdemeanor is for life as much as a felony,” he said, according to WWMT. “So many things come with a permanent record on somebody’s record.”
Making sure police are spending time dealing with more troublesome crimes was also a factor, Praedel told WXMI.
He said he and his fellow commissioners strived to eliminate duplicate laws and to make sure the punishments better fit the infractions.
“We’re not rolling out the welcome mat for crime in the city of Kalamazoo,” Praedel claimed. “We’re not rolling out the red carpet. We still want there to be accountability and guardrails, and it is still against the law for as many of those things on there to do those actions.”
Kalamazoo City Attorney Clyde Robinson said most of the changes won’t even be noticed.
“We are eliminating certain offenses that are never or hardly ever enforced, like spitting on the sidewalk,” Robinson said, according to WWMT. “There are other offenses that are being removed that no longer are considered a crime under either state law or state jurisprudence such as fortune telling.”
And citizens can still rest assured that urinating, defecating, and littering on the city’s sidewalks will be against the law, the city attorney noted.
“They are still a violation of our ordinances, it just no longer carries a criminal sentence,” Robinson said.
But many downtown Kalamazoo business owners were outraged to learn about the city’s new lenient treatment of such offenders.
During an interview with “Fox & Friends First” on Thursday, Kalamazoo business owners Cherri Emery and Becky Bil said feces and litter outside businesses’ doorways had already become a problem before those offenses were decriminalized, FOX News reported.
“We kept smelling something in the back of the store…and it was human feces,” Emery said. “I called my landlord and nobody would do anything about it. This was before we had ambassadors…so I had to clean it up myself.”
Even after the ambassadors were brought in to help curb the messes left behind, problems have persisted, FOX News reported.
“We have a major problem downtown and I don’t understand why it would even be proposed that the law would be less restricted than it is now,” Emery told WWMT. “The people that are urinating, defecating, they’re not going to stop, we live with it every single day.”
“It’s not just the urination part of it,” she explained to FOX News. “The part of it that’s really upsetting to us is people approaching other people, people following some of their employees to their cars and asking them for money, and when they get to the car, and they’re still not giving them money, we had one guy that started throwing rocks at their cars…”
Another downtown business owner, Lana Hoffman, said decriminalizing those offenses jeopardizes the safety of customers, employees, and “anyone coming downtown, WXMI reported.
“That’s not right, and that’s not good, so I am very concerned and I’m very disappointed, and I feel like the support for the businesses and the business owners is lacking,” Hoffman said. “I feel like a lot of these things were passed that weren’t even mentioned in the meeting.”
Praedel said business owners cannot be the city’s only focus, WXMI reported.
“I definitely empathize with the downtown business owners too,” he said. “They have invested a lot to be in downtown, and a lot of those spots are mom and pop shops where that is their life income. We want to be respectful of that.”
“We hear them. We are listening to them, and we care a lot, but we care about everybody in the community,” he added.