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Monroe approves “no sit-lie” ordinance on sidewalks, may set stay-out-of-drug area

MONROE — The City Council has approved an ordinance to move homeless people off city sidewalks and is considering a separate ordinance to exclude people convicted of drug crimes from certain high-drug trafficking areas of Monroe.
The “Stay Out of Drug Areas” (SODA) and no “Sitting or Lying Down on Public Sidewalks” proposals were discussed on Tuesday, March 6. The sit-lie ordinance approved by council went into effect last week.
The “Stay Out of Drug Areas” ordinance would allow the Monroe Municipal Court to set the restrictions “to condition pretrial release, post-conviction deferral or suspension of sentence for drug offenses,” according to a city memo. SODA orders can be issued to anyone charged with or convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacturing drugs, delivering drugs, or any violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
The city believes that excluding drug offenders from SODA areas will reduce the likelihood of re-offenses and the amount of illegal drug activity as a whole. 
If someone is caught violating their SODA order an officer can immediately arrest them and constitute a separate criminal offense with a possible fine and/or jail time.
The SODA proposal will come back to council March 20 after press time. A SODA ordinance is already in use in many cities including Everett and Marysville. 
At the March 6 meeting, there were still questions surrounding where zones will be and how they will affect residents and businesses.
“We tried to include the areas where we have had the most problems with,” said Police Chief Tim Quenzer. “The crime statistics for a particular area in the city are a matter of public record, there will be supportive findings by the council, testimonies by the chief and the rest of the police department that defines that it doesn’t necessarily attach more of a stigma to it than intended. This is a tool for the court to use rather than some sort of zoning restriction.”
The “sit-lie” ordinance would prohibit individuals from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. within 100 feet of a business, the ordinance reads. The proposal came in response to increased number of people who sit or lie down on public sidewalks, particularly near businesses. 
However, homeless people would be treated differently. 
Police officers would be required to ask if the person is homeless and if they say yes, the officer must verify the availability of shelter space no further than 15 miles from city limits. The officer then must notify the person of such availability and offer to transport the person to the shelter. A person can also choose to move along.

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