'Problematic' Prince Albert curfew expands police authority: U of S prof
SASKATOON -- Prince Albert City Council in a 7-2 vote this week implemented a midnight to 6 a.m. curfew on public walkways and pathways in the city, excluding sidewalks.
"The issue has been property crime and a lot of property crime," said Craig Guidinger, director of planning and development. "There is a perception that it starts in walkways and back alleys."
Guidinger said a similar bylaw already exists for public parks. People caught violating the pathway curfew can be fined $500.
"So what we've done with the parks bylaw and what's been approved is we're extending that curfew or limiting access to parks, extending that to our walkways as well," he said.
Scott Thompson, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan, said the bylaw essentially gives patrol officers more power to stop, question and detain people found along these pathways who police believe are engaging in suspicious activity.
Thompson said the bylaw takes away a person's right to refuse a street check.
"I think the issue … is expanding police powers by saying that 'if you are in this area' then they have the justification to demand your responses and demand to be able to detain you and that's where it starts being problematic," he said. "With a police stop or a contact interview or a street check, you have the right to say no to that officer, whereas, this secondary legislation, you would not have the right to not give that information."
The bylaw creates a "baseline of suspicion" if someone is caught in a particular area, he said.
"Just being in a particular area is justification for a police search and seizure, but that is a separate issue than, this society deciding you can't be in certain places, at a certain time of night," he said.
"As a community we'll have to decide whether it's acceptable or not."
Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody said the bylaw lets police engage with people in these pathways.
"If you're out there and going to perform a crime, well you shouldn't be there in the first place and we just say, ‘let's give the police a little bit of a hand up so that they can ask some people some questions’ which they can't do today," Cody said.