Teens found "not guilty" of loitering - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Teens found "not guilty" of loitering

November 28, 2007

Bainbridge-- The teenagers who sat in court Wednesday may have been the first to be arrested for hanging out in the Bainbridge mall parking lot, but they were definitely not the first to do it.

Sergeant Jack Bunting, the arresting officer says, "Ever since I've been policing we've had a problem with it.  Youth do not have a place to hang out at, and that's the biggest problem in Bainbridge."  He told the judge and the teens he apologized for making an example out of them, but something had to be done about the problem. 

"You try to help the youth, you try to help them but they just keep coming back. If they just picked up their trash the landowner wouldn't have a problem," Bunting says.  One of the teens arrested, Bethany Josey agrees trash had been left in the past, "It was a problem, people did litter up there, and you should pick up your trash."  But, she says, she and her friends were innocently hanging out when they were arrested.

Signs declaring "no loitering" are posted at the mall, however Bainbridge has no law dealing strictly with loitering.  "We went under criminal trespassing where you must be warned prior too," Bunting explains.  Since the teens had not had an official documented warning, the judge ruled not guilty in the first trial and Public Safety dismissed the rest of the cases.  The judge warned the teens though, they were breaking the rules.

Bethany's father Bill Josey says, "We understand they're fixing to try to have the state law amended into the city ordinance so we're going to be watching that real close."  The judge says if the teens are caught again at a site banning loitering, they will be punished.

Bainbridge Public Safety says besides the public park, Harveys is on the last remaining places teens are allowed to hang out but if they leave trash there, loitering will be banned.


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