Council passes ban on public urination, defecation

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2005

Urinating and defecating in public should be banned, the County Council unanimously decided Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by County Council President Thomas E. Perez (D-Dist. 5) of Takoma Park at the request of the county executive, answers complaints from residents and business owners in urban areas like Wheaton, Bethesda, Silver Spring and the Long Branch business district who say that the problem degrades their neighborhoods and commercial areas.

Hollywood East owner Janet Yu said she would often see people urinate in the parking lot facing her Wheaton restaurant. That behavior, she said, is bad for business and doesn’t help Wheaton’s redevelopment efforts.

‘‘If we want to make the community better, we certainly can’t have that happen,” Yu said.

The law itself will not solve the county’s urination and defecation problem, said Yu, adding that the county also needs to educate people about the new ban. She suggested flyers and signs in different languages that could be posted throughout the community.

The issue received attention in March when County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) released a study that examined various elements contributing to Wheaton’s image of being unsafe. The study noted that acts like public urination and defecation, coupled with nuisance crimes like trespassing and disorderly conduct, erode Wheaton’s image. The bill will be presented to Duncan this week.

The image of cleanliness and safety plays an integral role in giving an area a positive image, said Natalie Cantor, director of the Mid-County Regional Services Center. She referred to the ‘‘broken windows” theory, which argues that an unkempt environment leads to more neglect and can foster crime.

Anyone caught violating the law would be cited for a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine, incarceration or both. Police may charge violators for a civil offense, given the circumstances. Repeat violators could be banned from specific areas.

People charged for public urination or defecation do not fall under the same category as indecent exposure or disorderly conduct because those acts must be done in a lewd or indecent manner, or for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Such a law is not unheard of in Montgomery County. Gaithersburg, a municipality, has its own rules, and the county parks system has banned public urination and defecation it for at least 20 years. First-time offenders at county parks face a $50 fine and $100 the second time.

Other Washington, D.C.,-area jurisdictions such as Gaithersburg, Frederick City, Prince George’s County and Alexandria and Arlington in Virginia have laws prohibiting public urination and defecation.

The law would apply to the following municipalities: Barnesville, Brookeville, City of Takoma Park, Chevy Chase Village, Town of Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase View, Chevy Chase Sec. 3, Chevy Chase Sec. 5, Village of North Chevy Chase and Glen Echo, and Village of Martin’s Additions.