Charlotte's 'No-Go Zones' Die an Unceremonious Death

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Back in October, I reported on Charlotte’s discussion about creating “no-go zones” to fight prostitution. Under the plan, police could designate certain areas as high-crime areas, and then ban anyone arrested inside the perimeter for up to a year.

The idea raised some serious constitutional questions, as even a city lawyer was quick to state. But similar initiatives have passed legal muster elsewhere—though whether they actually effectively drive down crime is less clear. At the time, the proposal was being formulated by the police department, after which it would have to go to public-safety committee of City Council, and if approved, from there to the full council.

So what happened? In the public-safety committee hearing on Wednesday, the zones were unceremoniously deep-sixed. The Charlotte Observer reports:

… The city acknowledged that the zones could be “perceived as arbitrary” and could have raised fears of “selective enforcement.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, council members Austin, Claire Fallon and Greg Phipps voted to stop discussing safety zones. That vote essentially killed the idea.

Council members Kenny Smith and Michael Barnes weren’t there for the vote. Smith, who came later in the meeting, said he would have voted to table the idea as well.

Even Al Austin, the council member who’d first put forward the idea, voted against. Police Chief Kerr Putney, who had been supportive initially, also said he thought instituting the zones would be unwise. “We don’t need to stigmatize a community,” he said.

My original report is here.