PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The city of Portland is issuing criminal trespass notices rather than citations for standing on medians.
The city of Portland is touring what it considers to be the successful launch of a new ordinance that prevents people from panhandling on median strips. The city says it has not issued a single citation for violating the ordinance. But police have issued criminal trespass noticed and made arrests.
Leroy Gove was arrested twice for standing on a median. The 54 year-old was standing at the intersection of Congress and St. John streets. Police say the first arrest came after Gove refused to leave the median strip. They say the second arrest happened after Gove ran into the street, blocking an ambulance that was driving by with lights flashing. Police say Gove had already been given a written warning in the form of a criminal trespass notice.
"That just goes to tell you that we are so far away from voluntary compliance, when you have an individual that's been warned repeatedly, been served a notice not to return to the property, and actually told the officers at the time, 'I'll go to any median strip I want any time I want,' in a highly intoxicated stupor kind of conversation, and then swore at the officers and said, 'I'm going to do what I want'" Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck told NEWS CENTER.
Police say four other people have also been served with criminal trespass notices after being given verbal warnings. They say those individuals have since been obeying the law. Gove's attorney Merritt Heminway says police are criminalizing an activity that should only come with a civil citation.
"They took this ordinance and they criminalizes the conduct by doing do in a backhanded way," Heminway said. "So folks are not being charged for violating the ordinance itself, they are being changed for violating a criminal trespass order that prohibits them from freely moving about the city."
If police were to issue a citation for standing in the median it would come with a fine of up to five hundred dollars. The ACLU of Maine is also suing the city on behalf of three individuals who claim their civil rights are being violated by being banned from standing on a median.