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No Loitering: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What qualifies as loitering?

A.
Lingering in a public place for no clear reason or purpose and for an unusually long period of time is termed as loitering. The act in itself is subjective and difficult to define but relates to any suspicious behavior by an individual that leads to a concern that a criminal act against a person/property is likely to be committed.

Q. Why is loitering considered an issue?

A.
Lingering in or around a property for a long time and no apparent reason is an issue because it gives rise to the suspicion that an unlawful or illegal activity might take place. It could turn out to be a breeding ground for unlawful and antisocial behavior such as drug distribution, gang activity, soliciting, etc. By fuelling the feeling of fear and uncertainty, loitering may discourage people in the neighborhood, or any sort of customers, leading to a significant loss of reputation and revenue for a business.

Q. Is loitering a punishable offense?

A.
Given its nature, loitering is largely subjective, and laws and rules around it vary across jurisdictions. While some cities/towns may treat it as a crime in itself, others may require the police to observe criminal behavior before confronting a suspected loiterer.

Q. How does loitering differ from trespassing?

A.
It’s easy to confuse loitering with trespassing. While trespassing means entering or being on someone’s property without their permission, loitering broadly refers to remaining idle in a place for an unusual amount of time for no apparent reason. Given its nature, loitering can be rather vague and somewhat difficult to clearly identify and understand but is often any behavior that provides reasonable ground for suspicion.

Q. How can I deter loiterers from gathering around my property?

A.
You can do this by taking a few simple steps, the most obvious being posting clear no-loitering signs in places that attract loiterers. You may also implement video surveillance and/or install CCTV signs, which works rather well in discouraging potential miscreants.
It may also work well to ensure that your property is well maintained and areas such as entrance, exits, washrooms, and parking lots have adequate lighting. You may also want to remove wall art/graffiti that may attract the crowd you want to keep away. Another thing that might deter loiterers is keeping your property abuzz with activity, a clear sign that the property is frequented often and not neglected. You should also provide adequate facilities both indoors and outdoors, such as trash cans and receptacles, and ensure there are not many potential sleeping areas in and around your property.

Q. Does loitering apply to private places as well?

A.
Although it is more common to public places and crowd-catering establishments, loitering can be observed in or around private places as well. Residential areas, farms, private lawns and land units, etc. may attract loiterers just as much as any public place.
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