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A charge of 'hanging around'

Police in the Philadelphia region have made hundreds of arrests under local loitering ordinances that experts say may be unconstitutional.

Darby Township: "Loitering - remaining idle in one location; lingering; spending time idly; loafing or walking around aimlessly in one vicinity or neighbor-hood; or 'hanging around.' "

Arrests, 2001-2006: 45

Temple University Law School professor David Kairys: "It's the kind of statute that allows police to pick up just about anyone. Which people do you charge with hanging around? 'Loafing or walking about aimlessly,' what is criminal about that? Are they really giving police authority to pick up people they don't like? It's very much like cases that have been struck down."

Chester City: "It shall be unlawful for any person/persons who has been observed standing, sitting or otherwise loitering for over thirty minutes in a high drug activity area and after questioning by police could not give a lawful and reasonable explanation for his presence there to remain."

Arrests, 2001-2006: 490

University of Pennsylvania Law School professor David Rudovsky:

"Government officials cannot declare a particular area as high crime or high drug activity and then prevent persons from being in that area based on an inability to 'explain' why they are there."


"No person shall loiter in a public place . . . impeding or tending to hinder or impede the free and uninterrupted passage of vehicles or pedestrians."

Arrests, 2001-2006: 618

Villanova Law School professor Gregory P. Magarian: "The phrase 'tending to hinder or impede' may very well be a problem. . . . If law enforcement gets kind of slippery, does it mean standing there looking threatening, standing there looking black?"