Town leaders want to see more policing and new signs at the corner of Davie and Jones Ferry roads, where officers have responded to 434 calls for service so far this year.
The corner has been a place where day laborers gather in the mornings to find work, but complaints about loitering, trash, and harassment led the town to adopt an anti-lingering ordinance in 2007. It was overturned four years later after community groups raised concerns the law was unconstitutional. El Centro Hispano created the Center for Employment and Leadership, or CEL, in 2015 to shift laborers off the corner and help them find work.
Still, some workers and employers prefer to use the corner as a drop-off and pick-up site. Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton told the Board of Aldermen last week the spot is becoming popular with people who stay long after the workday has begun.
“Out of all the traffic at the corner, 98 percent of the people there are there to work,” he said. “It's that other two percent that are there to cause problems.”
Carrboro police reported receiving calls to investigate 42 disturbances, a dozen instances of trespassing, six assaults and one robbery in the vicinity of the corner within the last ten months. Horton said he's also heard from officers that drug sales in the area are on the rise.
In addition to increasing police patrols, he suggested posting signs to the area in English and Spanish listing prohibited activities that could result in citation or arrest, including public consumption of alcohol, public urination, littering, drugs, prostitution and fighting.
It is hate speech. It is a threat. ‘Hey baby, want some of this?’ is not ‘Let me take you to Acme for dinner.’
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist on verbal harassment at Jones Ferry and Davie roads
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist made it clear she wants to see verbal harassment added to that list. Though police logs list only a single report of harassment at the corner, she said she believes it's far a more common occurrence.
“Every woman in this room has walked by, not necessarily this corner, but a corner, and this could be on campus or with any demographic of males, and you feel visibly threatened,” Gist said. “It is hate speech. It is a threat. ‘Hey baby, want some of this?’ is not ‘Let me take you to Acme for dinner.’ It’s threatening and it’s disgusting. If we’re going to put a sign up, I want a sign to say, 'no making harassing remarks to women.’”
She suggested Carrboro launch a town-wide education campaign about verbal harassment, and possibly partner with UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill to extend the outreach effort.
Aldermen voted unanimously to endorse increased law enforcement efforts, new signage and an anti-harassment educational campaign. The board requested an update from Chief Horton early next year.
In other business
Also last week, the aldermen:
▪ Unanimously approved an ordinance requiring maintenance and upkeep of vacant commercial buildings. The new law is aimed at preventing urban blight. The regulations, which allow the town to step in if a dilapidated structure is not repaired, sold or demolished, came in response to resident complaints about the vacant building and empty lot at the corner of West Weaver and North Greensboro streets.
▪ Delayed awarding a bid totaling $1,070,090 to renovate the Town Commons. Town Manager David Andrews said this would allow representatives from the Carrboro Farmer's Market more time to weigh in on the project.
▪ Posrponed until Nov. 15 a discussion on possible uses for the Greene Tract, a 164 acre parcel of land north of Chapel Hill owned jointly by Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.