The Barberton City Council passed an ordinance amending the city’s “criminal activity nuisances” to include possible fines for excessive calls involving “any arrest, incorrigible or unruly children” and “unspecified acts of violence.”
Barberton police came to the council asking to broaden the nuisance definition to include repeated calls for family quarrels and unruly children.
The changes were authorized with a vote of 7-1.
A fine of $100 can be issued after police respond nuisances calls a property for a third time. A fine of $200 can be issued after the response for the fifth call.
The lone dissenter, Ward 1 Councilwoman Shannon Conrad Wokojance, told News 5 she was uncomfortable with what the expanded definition could mean for victims who were already afraid to call the police.
“I don’t think that is an appropriate way to address these situations,” Wokojance said. “We can do more referrals to services, we can bring other agencies into the city.”
Wokojance, who has a background as a victim advocate, pushed to amend the ordinance to exclude victims of domestic violence. The change was accepted but she still feels that the current law is an overreach.
“I don’t believe we should be passing laws that are so broad,” she said. “So much power is not a good thing.”
Wokojance cited several studies involving cities that were sued for their nuisance ordinances.
Barberton’s Police Chief Vince Morber has stated that the fines would only be issued in the most extreme circumstances.
Barberton resident Meghan Adair spoke up at the council meeting, arguing that the law is too broad to be fairly applied.
“We’re literally picking and choosing who qualifies for this fine,” she told News 5.
An appeals board will address concerns from residents who feel fines were issued inappropriately.
Wokojance said she is still waiting for specific information about that board.
Requests for comment from the Barberton Police Department and the city’s legal department were not returned by Thursday night.