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Anti-dawdling ordinance proposed for City of Dover

Milton Pratt
Delaware Public Media

A new and potentially unique law could be coming to Dover.

The anti-dawdling ordinance is currently being considered by the Dover City Council.

Councilman David Anderson proposed the anti-dawdling ordinance earlier this month to address minor infractions leading to major ones.

“And a lot of them are rooted in dawdling activities such as people who are outside of people’s storefronts aggressively panhandling or groups that are coming after hours - particularly on the weekends - in parking lots and drinking with loud music, which then breaks out into fights,” said Anderson.

Anderson says unlike the city’s loitering ordinance, this would focus on people standing around blocking entrances and display windows to area businesses.

“What this ordinance does is focus in on - unlike the loitering law - it focuses in on specific destructive activities, which are destructive to quality of life," Anderson said. "But it also is a civil violation ; it’s like a parking ticket. It doesn’t affect people’s criminal background. So a person who just makes a mistake isn’t scarred for life.”  

Dover Interfaith Mission for Housing chair Jeanine Kleimo says while Anderson’s intentions may be good, she wants to make sure there are “clear” reasons for such an ordinance and, if passed, it can be implemented fairly.

"I guess I feel that it could be implemented in a racist or other unfair way," Kleimo said. "Let’s say if I - as a white woman - was sitting in front of  a store downtown waiting for a friend to meet me, I would not be bothered. But if a Black man, particularly one who might not be the best dressed, were doing the same thing, I fear that he may be targeted under this proposed ordinance."

Anderson says police would give an initial warning before handing out tickets - similar to parking tickets - for a second violation. Fines that would go with those tickets remain undetermined.

Mayor Robin Christiansen and City Council tabled the discussion while the ordinance is under legal review.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.