Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

September 6, 2012

Editorial: Get Union Street under control

At some point, enough must be enough. Traverse City has reached that point with wild late-night behavior in the 100 block of South Union Street and something needs to be done about it — namely some hard-nosed charging by the county prosecutor for even low-level crimes.

Things have been heating up in that stretch, which includes three bars in a row, another across the street and a restaurant that also serves drinks, all summer. Police have always dealt with disturbances in the area, but a Traverse City Police captain said incidents are taking a turn for the worse.

"I don't know that the number has increased dramatically, but I do think we're seeing more physical violence," said Capt. Steve Morgan.

The incident that drew the most attention to that violence took place early Aug. 2, when two men who were fighting on the sidewalk smashed through the window of Wilson's Antiques. The owner estimated the damage at $4,000, including the cost of the window and damage to a vendor's display.

Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider declined to issue charges in that case because both men claimed self-defense. Schneider also apparently doesn't plan to charge a man who pulled a knife on another man during a drunken argument in the same general area Aug. 18.

That's got to change. People who break the law need to be charged, and word has to get out that if you're drunk and disorderly or you disturb the peace or you're yelling obscenities at passersby or urinating on a building, you're going to be arrested and you're going to be charged.

The charge might not be much, and a conviction may bring only a small fine or even a day or two in jail. But the point is that dealing with a charge will be a hassle and will cost you money and you might think about it the next time.

While Schneider may not be able to prove who started a fight, the brawlers who went through the window were, at the least, disturbing the peace or were drunk and disorderly.

Over the weekend a couple was discovered having sex behind buildings on the west side of the street; if they're charged because one person saw them and called police, the brawlers and urinators and those who throw up on someone's doorstep must also be charged.

No one wants a police state but the city's tolerance for outrageous, drunken behavior has run out, and those responsible for enforcing the law must act.

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