After Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. airports initially treated everyone getting on an airplane as a would-be terrorist. It didnt matter whether the person was an 8-month-old boy in a stroller or an 80-year-old women in a wheelchair, they still had to go through the same screening rigmarole.
That was an overreaction based on fear, and so is Bellevilles proposed occupancy ordinance. Law-abiding homeowners and renters are required to report the names, ages and relationships of people in their homes and are limited on the number of occupants. Failure to comply could mean tickets, fines and having to move.
The rules are not so much about public health and safety but rather a means of identifying and tracking unsavory types. The best justification for this ordinance is that the information and limitations might help the police do their job, and thats a red flag.
We dont want unsavory types in Belleville, either. But they probably wont find the ordinance a barrier to anything. For starters, criminals are mobile and dont have to live in the city limits to commit crimes here. Some of them who do live here will simply ignore the requirements of the ordinance.
It will be the people who follow the rules who will be penalized. Overly restrictive rules actually are a greater barrier to good people moving here than troublemakers.
Belleville needs to focus on illegal behavior and respond to that rather than try to use an occupancy ordinance as a law enforcement tool. The City Council should reject this attempt to beef up the ordinance.