Town To Crack Down On Probation Loiterers

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Several businesses in downtown Woodbury are concerned about a neighboring probation office, and the loitering by its clients which has a negative effect on their operations and the town’s image.

Ron Fryar, owner and publisher of the Cannon Courier, spoke on behalf of several existing and planned businesses on the downtown square at the monthly Woodbury Planning Commission meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.

Fryar spoke about the flood of clients which descend on the office of Providence Community Corrections on Wednesdays. Providence is the local misdemeanor probation service company. Clients loiter outside the office throughout the day waiting to see their probation officer.

Some businesses feel the loiterers are intimidating, including a next door neighbor, Cannon Arts Dance Studio. Owner Lori Christensen says her business has been adversely affected by the crowd on Wednesdays, which is the only day the office is open to local and area residents who have been put on probation by the court system. She says the situation is a concern to parents who take their young children to the studio.

Several suggestions were talked about throughout the discussion and almost all suggestions were packaged together.

The Planning Commission decided to put no loitering signs around the outside of the probation office, talk to the staff of the probation office to address the problem and have them make clients stay inside the building.

There will also be signs inside warning clients about loitering and the city of Woodbury will step up police presence to enforce the no loitering policy.

Other matters before the planning commission included:

• State Planner Shannon Copas attended the meeting for the first time. Copas has been assigned as the State Planner to help the town of Woodbury. Copas brought up training and possible future training topics but most of the Commission has already gone through the required 4 hours of training for this year. Copas will review the past training and see if anyone needs to make up hours.

 • Debbie Vaughn, owner of the Old Feed Store Antique Mall, approached the board. Vaughn is planning on opening a cafe in the Mall called The Gathering Place. According to the State Of Tennessee International Commercial Building Code it is necessary for restaurants to have a certain type of Suppression Hood System, but could be bypassed if the restaurant was just a cafe and deli in which The Gathering Place would be termed as such.

A waiver needs to come from the Planning Commission according to the Woodbury City Building Inspector, Phillip Burns. It was determined that the matter needed to go before the Council of Woodbury. A motion was passed and approved that the Planning Commission would make a recommendation to approve the waiver and present it to the Woodbury Mayor and Board of Aldermen for a vote.

The next meeting of the City Planning Commission will be October 18.

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September 21, 2011 at 12:10pm
I guess it does seem a little rough having all those "violent" offenders LOL standing on the sidewalk. Considering, about 1/2 the poulation of Woodbury is standing there, I guess visitors wonder what is the attraction that brings them there. Well, it's my understanding that the probation office goes on a 2 hour lunch and they might come back on time and they might not. If you think just a minute, a lot of those people do not have driver's license and no way to get there but be dropped off to wait. Just tell that probation officer to bring their lunch with them and what do you know?? LOL No one taking up space on those very crowded sidewalks. No one to fear that they have to look at the dregs of cannon county LOL Just because of a lunch break that could be eaten inside the office!! :)
September 21, 2011 at 2:53pm
Wouldn't moving the probation office away from the square and main business district go a long way toward solving the problem? Maybe it could be located near the exisiting jail? Also, it is my understanding the probation office does not include toilet facitilities so the probationers have to go to McDonald's and other places of business to use the bathroom. If this is true it is a sad thing for everyone.
September 21, 2011 at 5:11pm
I seen alot of people standing beside the Dance studio this morning. I wondered what was going on and now I know. There were alot of people and some even sitting on the sidewalks. I agree, something should be done about it.
September 21, 2011 at 5:36pm
No, no, no. We can't go moving the probation office out by the jail which is also near the convenience center. If inmates at the center make folks so uncomfortable, a bunch of offenders on probation standing around would too!
September 21, 2011 at 8:20pm
@Ralph I seem to recall the inmates being removed from the convenience center due mainly to their illegal behavior. And yes, some were uncomfortable going there. Seems there was good reason.
September 21, 2011 at 8:51pm
these are the same people that you are standing in line with at the grocery store, yet they only frighten you when you see them standing outside the probation office or working at the dump in an orange jumpsuit. I just don't understand this town. Damned if you and damned if you don't. We wanted inmates to stop working at the everyone complains about it being crowded and taking to long to dump your trash. We want to move the probabation office.....where?.....i think the square is a pretty good place since its on the busiest street in town and if any of them were to do something to make the neighboring business owners feel uncomfortable (besides just standing there, being where they are supposed to be) then someone would probably drive by and see it happen.
September 21, 2011 at 10:29pm
This is just a other example of people having nothing better to do than complain about anything they can. It not like those business actually have very many customers anyway. I rarely ever see anybody doing any business in that area of town. Why Ron Fryar is complaining is beyond me when half of the Courier is made up of what those probationers had done in the past, that the only thing interesting in this newspaper.
September 22, 2011 at 3:18am
There will soon be 2-3 businesses operating at the location. As long as the loitering laws are adhered to, there is no concern. No one is opposed to locating the probation office on the square, but every business on every area of the square would have problems if a large group of people congregated outside for most of the day every Wednesday. That concern would exist if it was a church group.
September 22, 2011 at 8:09am
Agreed Kevin. Why are people making this about being afraid of the probationers? I seen so many people yesterday and had no idea what was going on. It was a pretty big crowd so I do understand the concerns for the other businesses. Whether it be probationers or a church group or anything else.
September 22, 2011 at 8:42am
My comments as a business owner: personally, I've never had any problems. Other business owners have informed me that they cannot park on the side street anymore because their vehicles have been keyed and hit several times, beggers are coming into the stores and begging for money or a ride somewhere, used condoms are found laying in the street, the person bringing the offender to the probation office is parking in front of stores instead of inside the square, taking up parking space for our few customers that we do have. Denvor01, you are right, we don't have many customers from Woodbury, 90% of my customers come from out of town. Yet, last week alone, I've had 16 people from Woodbury wanting me to buy something or donate something (non were probationers). And Denvor01, looks to me like those people (the probationers) have nothing better to do than break the law & cause problems to you (by using your tax money) & me (causing my business to go elsewhere).
September 22, 2011 at 10:03am
If it was up to me, I would do away with the probation service and start setting examples for those that break the laws by showing them that if you break the laws prepare to do the jail time. Over half of the names I see in the Courier are repeat offenders and they continue to get chances after chances with no real consequences. But the judges and the D.A. of this county must not believe in "if you do the crime you do the time."
September 22, 2011 at 10:07am
Well obviously the 'probation office' is not big enough to handle all the people who need to 'check in'. And one day a week is not enough either. If there are no bathrooms for the parolees, or whatever they are called, then the office must move to a different venue that offers space, parking, and restroom facilities. Yes a large group of persons standing around on the street is a detriment to adjacent businesses and should not be tolerated. TnTnTn
September 22, 2011 at 10:19am
Other than the fact that both the DA and judges have sentencing guidelines they must follow, there is the bigger problem of the jail not being big enough. Already running near twice capacity. Highly unlikely taxpayers would be in favor of building a bigger jail right now.
September 22, 2011 at 11:04am
What's wrong with community service? No pay, just some work. Does that violate rights, is it embarrasing? If there is overcrowding in the jails for all these repeat offenders let's please do something besides probation, especially if they don't even pay there probation money.
September 22, 2011 at 12:19pm
I understand the concern from the businesses and for the parents of the children at the dance studio. I would not like it either.

However, if I am reading this correctly, we are now going to police the outside of the probation office and possibly give people who are required by law to show up to this place a ticket for loitering when we know that is the only available day they can come?

Or we are going to force them all inside of the building that is too small and has no bathroom facilities because they can't stand on the street.

Does anyone know what the capacity for the office is before we start shoving people inside and a fire breaks out and the county gets sued for negligence?

Who pays the rent on the building is it county or state?

The green building beside the old jail seems like a more suitable place to me if it was for rent. It is much bigger, away from the dance studio and parking is not an issue either. Just a thought.
September 22, 2011 at 1:13pm
Corey, the county contracts with Providence to provide probation services. Providence rents the space in which it is now located. Providence decides how often it is open. Providence would ultimately be responsible for any continual problems created by its business clients visiting the facility. If people are "shoved" into a business and a fire breaks out that business would be accountable.

I have conservatively estimated Providence sees 100 clients per week at the location. It is my understanding their clients are assessed $40 per week for their services. That would total around $16,000 per month. They pay one person full-time. I think they could afford another location if that is what the situation eventually dictates.
September 22, 2011 at 3:17pm
Well I agree they could certainly afford another location if they do earn $16,000 a month. If that is true, they could buy the green building beside the old jail.

However, if a fire did break out with 100 people inside the building I doubt seriously that Providence would be the only defendant in a lawsuit. In this day and age when you can burn yourself on coffee and sue for damages, anything is possible.

It seems to me that Providence should be the ones who are fined for the loitering of the people reporting for probation especially if they know it is an issue with the businesses located around their office.

Do you know if anyone has anyone contacted them to let them know the problem exists?
September 22, 2011 at 3:33pm
"However, if a fire did break out with 100 people inside the building I doubt seriously that Providence would be the only defendant in a lawsuit."

The owner of the building, the person they rent from, might also be liable.

"Do you know if anyone has anyone contacted them to let them know the problem exists?"

The Town of Woodbury Police Department.
September 22, 2011 at 6:14pm
You are, and I would say intentionally, comparing apples to oranges. When was the last time you observed a group of 30-40 people whittling at the courthouse or sitting on the bench outside of Joe's? I'll supply the answer to that question -- never.

While it is true the probationers "must" be somewhere, it is also true they -- or anyone else -- must not be loitering in the streets of Woodbury.
September 22, 2011 at 8:08pm
It's crazy how so many ppl are missing the point here, lol. Standing outside a business is one thing..but like Kevin said 30 or 40 ppl is another. I was by there at 8 am and I thought I had missed a parade or something. All these ppl joking about by there Wednesday morning around 8 and then you will see the problem.
September 22, 2011 at 10:25pm
Kevin – Most Loitering laws have been repealed or found unconstitutional. Such loitering laws where just ‘standing’ on the corner is a violation of the law have no place in a free society.’ Standing around in a public place bothering no one, is protected by the both the U.S. and Tennessee Constitution. The sidewalk on Main Street near the intersection of Cannon Street is a public area. I have never seen the wording of Woodbury’s loitering ordinance so I won’t guess as to how it defines “loitering”. In fact, I don’t know if they even have one.

Tennessee repealed the state loitering law and now in Tennessee, loitering really falls under the general crime of disorderly conduct. You can (lawfully) be arrested and removed from a public area for:
1.) refusing to obey an officer’s order to disperse ---- so long as the order is issued to maintain public safety during an emergency situation,
2.) creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that serves no legitimate purpose, or
3.) making an unreasonable noise that prevents others from carrying on lawful activities.

But -- don’t trust me -- I just have an “out of state” bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and I have never attended a Tennessee P.O.S.T. academy --- But --- I was valedictorian of a bigger better one.
September 23, 2011 at 6:38am
I do have a positive suggestion ---- Why doesn’t the City or the business ask the court to ask the company managing the probationers to better manage their office hours and appointments and to require the probationers to restrict their arrival time and require that they leave the area immediately. I don’t think the judge can require the probationers not to mingle with each other – but that may be a possibility. I do understand how others feel. I experience it myself. My doctor in Murfreesboro just moved his office next door to a probation office and the same thing occurs there. It is easy to presume that they are bad people when they probably are not and the large numbers can cause personal insecurity. I’m sure there is an amicable solution for the businesses in the area ---it just takes a little more effort than just calling the cops.
September 23, 2011 at 8:27am
From talking to some business owners that are near there. This is not so much the issue of loitering but the issue of what is going on at the time when all of these people who are on probation is gathered at the same time. 94% of them know each other and while most of them are trying to clean their act up you still have that peer pressure that can cause those individuals to make the wrong decision again.

Mingle when was the last time you saw the men whittling around the square going behind buildings in alleyways and performing indecent public acts? That is what the business owners are worried about. Most of the businesses on the square are operated by women and at certain times of the day they are by themselves. I know of a couple that fear for their safety so much they have gone and got permits to carry. It is not completely due to the probationers up the street but that was one reason listed.

Most of these people have to catch rides to get to the office and then rides back home. Most of the time they are there before the office opens because their ride had to go to work, and they most likely will not be picked up until later in the afternoon when that person gets off from work. I personally seen 2 or 3 walking to the office Wednesday morning at 7:30 as I passed by the office there was at least 12 to 15 people already standing there. The answer could be that you require appointments for each of them, but you still have the issue of transportation to and from the office for most of them.

At 16,000 a month I would say that they could afford to be open one or two extra days.
November 09, 2011 at 10:27pm
you know not all the people that are in trouble are bad people this is why there is such a problem with the high crime rate the heartless people that are here in woodbury some of these people were raised the way they are its sad but true and i would like to know 1 person that dont break the law dailey not wearing your seat belt speeding but the difference is YOU DIDNT GET CAUGHT YET try putting the shoe on the other foot what other options do some have that dont have a car or licence i have seen people walk from woodland and back the probationers that everyone is fussing about ARE HUMAN TOO they dont deserve to be treated and talked about like animals i feel sorry for some of them because they really dont know any better and there is not one of them that would not give you the shirt off there backs and i think its sad that they are judged just because they are on probation if any one would take the time to speak to anyone of them they would see that there not all bad people that gets caught in the system
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