CONYERS — The Conyers City Council last week approved an ordinance prohibiting “urban camping” and expanding what is generally considered to be disorderly conduct.
According to City Attorney Mike Waldrop, the ordinance grew out of discussions among council members at the city’s annual retreat earlier this year.
Under the new and updated ordinance, all city public parks, unless being rented for a private event or being used for a city-sponsored event, will be closed to the public from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. The ordinance has also been expanded to prohibit public urination, public defecation, lying to police officers, inciting violence, disrupting religious ceremonies or vaccination sites and aggressive panhandling.
Non one found in violation of the ordinance will be arrested until after they have received an oral or written warning. If the violator fails to comply with the warning, then they may be arrested and issued a citation. The fine for a first offense will be no more than $50, and the fine for any susequent offences will be no more than $100.
Waldrop said he worked closely with the Conyers Police Department to draft an enforceable ordinance.
“We always try to work closely and collaboratively with the Police Department as best we can,” said Waldrop, “but in matters such as this, we go above and beyond to do it because this is effectively a tool they will primarily be responsible for implementing.”
Conyers Deputy Police Chief Scott Freeman said the prohibitions in the ordinance are all “grounded in the safety issue.” He added that the ordinance was well-researched and well-grounded in U.S. Supreme Court decisions in order to ensure the protection of First Amendment rights.
Conyers follows other cities like Atlanta, Rome and Gainesville that have approved urban camping ordinances over the past couple of years.
According to the state Department of Community Affairs point in time count, Rockdale had 20 unsheltered homeless persons in 2019 and 52 sheltered homeless person. The point in time count is conducted very other year in January; however, the count was not conducted this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.