From the Manassas Journal Messenger today:

Prosecutors in Prince William County have dropped loitering charges against four Hispanic men after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the case.

The men were arrested in May outside an apartment complex where they lived. The ACLU said the county’s ordinance is used to target Hispanics and that it infringes on First Amendment protections of free assembly.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said he believes the loitering law is constitutional. But it also requires police to give offenders a warning before an arrest, and that didn’t occur in this case.

The county in recent years has implemented numerous policies to crack down on illegal immigrants. Critics say that has resulted in discrimination against Hispanics.

44 Thoughts to “PWC Drops Loitering Case Against Four Latino Men”

  1. Moon-howler

    This incident certainly blows some holes in some theories. It doesn’t appear that any of the men who were arrested were part of the 287(g) program. Can we assume then, that they were all documented?

    If they were documented, that blows the theory that illegal immigrants are the only people who are involved in day labor sites and who loiter.

    Who were the people arrested?

  2. Elena

    Great questions M-H! I would like to know the answers.

  3. Moon-howler

    The names really aren’t meaningful, but thanks for the link. I want to know WHO they are in terms of the questions above. It just seems that all the stars are perfectly aligned, if you get my drift.

    Too many unanswered questions here.
    Why are residents being arrested for being on the property where they live? Where they arrested JUST for loitering? What was their immigration status? Are we to believe the police just swooped in and arrested them without a ‘move on warning’? None of this adds up.

  4. Someone wise kept asking if the men had received a warning before being arrested.

    Okay, more than one wise person asked that.

    The county was smart to lay off with this one. They should examine that policy ASAP.

  5. Rick Bentley

    “Why are residents being arrested for being on the property where they live?”

    For loitering, near Coverstone Drive, all day long.

    “Where they arrested JUST for loitering? ”

    Yes. that’s the law used to keep people from loitering. it can still be used on non-Hispanics, generally.

    “What was their immigration status?”

    Probably illegal. There are 10-20 of them loitering over there right now, possibly some of the same guys, if you want to go ask them.

    “Are we to believe the police just swooped in and arrested them without a ‘move on warning’?”

    The police have probably had innumerable conversations with people there, including the “spotters” who negotiate with the passserby who are interested in hiring them, but apparently on this particular day can’t prove that they talked to each of these guys individually.

    “None of this adds up.”

    It adds up to me. The only way forward is for citizens to complain about these guys, and force police response enough times to establish that these guys should be talen away. Let’s work in shifts. I drive by there every night around 7:45 PM, I can call a complain in then. Any other volunteers?

  6. Rick Bentley

    laws are for gringos and rules are for suckers.

  7. Lafayette

    I don’t go that direction much anymore, but did trek to the RaceTrac(RaceWay-for you newcomers) earlier this week. I saw with my own two eyes that their new “office” is at RaceTrac. I looked up the hill and there were small groups of 5 in about 4 other spots.
    You’d probably have better luck on bvbl getting volunteers. 😉
    Although, isn’t your 7:45 pm shift a little late? Now, AM I’m sure there’s plenty.

  8. Last Best Hope

    Did ACLU drop the law suit? This is a wise decision by Mr. Ebert, but my primary concern was the county tax dollar and our future tax rate. As I understand it, although we may have dropped the charges, we are still liable to be sued, especially if someone wants to test the Constitutionality of the loitering law. This is the right decision, I just hope it is not too late.

  9. Rick Bentley

    Right, Lafayette. Some days I work long shifts, other days I’m home all day and see that those guys are out all day in the afternoon. Indeed they are always on the periphery of RaceTrac. it looks as if they’ve learned to stay away from the 7-11 and from the Piuzza Hut, and seem skittish about hanging out in the apartment complex field. They mostly hang out at that corner near the trees on RaceTrac property, close to the street as if to deny they are on their property.

    Textbook loitering. But as we’ve all learned, American laws don’t apply to those who don’t even speak English.

    So I advocate calling in complaints to the police that these guys are loitering on private property. Because, actually, they are. The police will typically respond and it at least makes these guys run away. The non-emergency number to call in a complaint is 703-792-6500 . If we all call, those calls get logged and it becomes an ongoing problem that officers are aware of. And even if you don’t want to take the time to call, do what i do sometimes – take out your cell phone, look at them as if counting, and say out loud “there are about 20 of them, in four groups, at the corner of RaceTrac gas” and they scatter for a little while anticipating police.

    The ACLU can make it harder for us to enforce loitering laws against those who loiter, but they cannot actually make it legal to loiter.

  10. Rick Bentley

    And, you can call in and remain anonymous. The Private Property signs are posted on every parcel these guys loiter on, and the police can and do respond to a private citizen calling in loitering complains. I don’t want to be the only one calling – I’ve done it 10-15 times over the past couple of years – if a few concerned citizens all take up this cause though we can make a dent in this.

    Ideally, some of these guys will be arrested and deported. But even if not, it’s worth letting them know that they’re not actually welcome to loiter all day.

  11. Rick Bentley

    Try it. See if I’m lying. 703-792-6500. You do not have to give your name, you can choose to keep the complain anonymous. Just say you saw these guys – count their number – loitering at locations x, y, and z over there. You don’t need the exact address for each location, you can say “Coverstone Avenue near the race trac gas across from the Pizza hut’ or whatever.

    Help me out on this. Tell the ACLU to suck it long and hard.

  12. Rick Bentley

    “But it also requires police to give offenders a warning before an arrest”

    So if we complain enough, the police will regularly sweep through there, warn these guys, and need to take down their names.

  13. Lafayette

    Not, to worry. You are not alone in calling these incidents in to the PD. I’ve called numerous times over the last few years myself. I’m glad you’ve posted the number for others. I would think as many times that the police have had to deal with a variety of incidents in the Coverstone area for decades they are quite familiar with the area and exact GPIN# of the incident is not required. I too would encourage others to call, but I think you and I are alone on this one here on anti.

    Tell the ACLU to suck it long and hard. LMAO!!

  14. Lafayette

    I am curious does a new warning need to be issued daily? Or is the warning from a prior incident considered proper warning for an arrest?

  15. @Lafayette
    Good question. Either way, it should be in writing for the protection of the officers.

  16. Moon-howler

    Everyone hates the ACLU until they get their ass in a sling.

    So Lafayette and Rick, let me get this straight…you see people hanging out at the 7-11 at Coverstone and you call the cops? Tell me you are kidding. Seriously. What do you report seeing?

  17. Elena

    “Tell the ACLU to suck it long and hard. LMAO!!”

    Lafayette, why are you expressing such animosity towards the ACLU. All you and I know is that people were standing in a small group at Coverstone and they have Hispanic surnames. Since when should we assume that it an arrestable offense.

  18. Moon-howler

    Posted June 8, 2008

    To me, loitering is loitering.

    And someone asked about reconciliation. Anyone remember the 13 hour marathon meeting? How about scenes like these videos?

  19. Moon-howler

    Any more encounters with Officer Sanchez and a certain red circled blogger might be needing the ACLU.

  20. Lafayette

    Yes, Moon, I have. I have seen some unpleasant incidents. One I called on was actually one loiterer assaulting another one that was drunk. Everyone was ready to jump in. Yes, Elena, I believe assault is an arrestable offense.

    I’ve seen a lifetime of incidents at the Coverstone 7-11 that have involved whites, black, asians, and latinos. I’m showing do discrimination against any one more than the other. Yes, I have called other incidents…not all Hispanic surnames.

    Furthermore, as far as the ACLU goes..I don’t care for many of the things they do. Don’t get me started on assumptions. “Perception is reality” just came to mind.:)

  21. Moon-howler

    I could have sworn the conversation was about loitering, not criminal incidents.

    I would feel funny just driving by, seeing people hanging out, and calling in a loitering complaint. I am just wondering what a person says.

  22. Lafayette

    Moon, I was talking about loiterers! I will not discuss the details of any calls. I have my own personal safety to think about, and that’s far more important than providing a blog with the gory details. Sorry.

  23. Rick Bentley

    “you see people hanging out at the 7-11 at Coverstone and you call the cops?”

    Yes. Sometimes. Not over and over.

    “What do you report seeing?”

    Some number of men loitering on private property that I know they’ve been chased away from before.

  24. Moon-howler

    No one has asked for gories. Far from it. I am asking what one says regarding loiterers. Rick has answered.

    Rick has indicated his proximity to the site. If I were headed to Petco, Arbys or Walmart, I would have no idea what to even say unless people were blocking the street.

    The only time I have called the police on anyone is that area was over a kid at racetrack hanging on to one of the phones out back he was so strung out on something. I thought he was dying. I don’t recall much about him other than he was very strung out.

  25. Lafayette

    What about fireworks, Moon??
    I will let Rick answer he’s’s no secret who I am. We can talk about this privately. You know where to find me. 🙂

    You’ll have to pardon me this morning. As my mom would say “what you eat razor soup”..I would reply yes this morning. Happy Friday none the less.

  26. Starryflights

    This was a very wise decision on the part of country prosecutors. Kudos to the ACLU for preserving our freedoms. We must never surrender our freedoms in this country.

  27. Moon-howler

    Whatfireworks? The conversation was about loiterers in the Coverstone area. Not strung out kids, knifings, shootings, abductions or anything else, although we can include those topics if people want. That neighborhood has been a high crime area for years.

    There is nothing to discuss on this issue privately. It was purely blog talk. There are apparently missing questions and answers about loitering. Were there not, I expect there would have been no ACLU involvement.

  28. Lafayette

    Sarcasm there Moon about fireworks.

  29. Moon-howler

    Well, the fireworks went right over my head,no pun intended. Sky rockets in flight.

    If we are talking about fireworks that might have caused property damage at Howler Acres, yes I did call the cops on them. However, it wasn’t anywhere near Coverstone. Those neighbors have also moved, thank goodness. I don’t know who lives there now. I don’t see them or hear them and they don’t fire fireworks at my house and my neighbors.

    My other infamous neighbors are leaving also. I will miss their darling little dogs.

  30. Elena

    Not sure how a few men standing on private property at Coverstone apartment equates to assault. Seems there was a leap in thought there.

  31. Censored bybvbl

    Even if the men were here illegally, I’m not sure ICE is interested in them if they have no prior records. I’m sure detainees with gang connections, rape convictions, drug convictions, murder charges are head of the line. Some guy standing on property where he lives is not top priority. I think Homeland Security made that pretty clear recently.
    If the police only respond to complaints placed by citizens about loiterers, it leaves the county vulnerable to the prejudices of individual callers. Rick, perhaps a better tactic on your part would be to gather up your buddies and loiter for a day on the same street. If you’re treated differently, well , maybe the ACLU will take your case. 😉

  32. Moon-howler

    Censored, I am not encouraging ICE to pick them up. My question is purely technical. We were told time and time again that all arrestees would be checked for immigration status. We were also told that if the person arrested was illegal then they would have an ICE detainer put on them and they would be held. Well….If these people were not held, I would assume they were not illegal, based on what we have been told previously. Didn’t this happen back in May?

    If the county policy, based on the Resolution, has changed, then I would like to know about it.

    I totally agree that we cannot waste ICE’s limited resources on trivial matters that do not fall under serious crime. However, there seems to be a discrepancy between what we have been told would happen and what actually happens.

  33. “Tell the ACLU to suck it long and hard.” I find that a revolting, offensive image and would appreciate censoring sexual references on this blog. I’m no prude, and I have little problem with the “F” bomb or other harsh language, but there’s a time and place for sexual references, and this is neither.

  34. Incidentally, I’m sure my language has not always been acceptable, either. However, it has been censored in the past. I actually have little problem with that since I typically am at my worst when I am in a hurry or am impulsive.

    As for people being repeatedly asked to leave public property only to return the next day–this demonstrates the need for documentation. It’s like someone getting a warning as opposed to a ticket. The next time certainly warrants a ticket.

  35. Rick Bentley

    “As for people being repeatedly asked to leave public property only to return the next day–this demonstrates the need for documentation.”

    I agree! If they don’t have proper documentation they shouldn’t be here in the first place, much less flouting our laws. Glad to see we have the same mindset here.

  36. Censored bybvbl

    M-h, I know you’re not encouraging ICE to pick them up. We were lead to believe that anyone arrested and found to be here illegally would be handed over to ICE. But…surprise! ICE doesn’t want to handle all the nation’s loiterers, jaywalkers, drunks, and other petty scofflaws. I believe the new guidelines from HS make that pretty clear – there were too many discrepancies among the participating jurisdictions.
    On the other hand, if the men are here legally, whatever will the Red Spots do!? The guys are just ordinary loiterers!

  37. Lafayette

    Lafayette :I am curious does a new warning need to be issued daily? Or is the warning from a prior incident considered proper warning for an arrest?

    I still would REALLY like to know the answer to this question.

  38. Moon-howler

    I think that the county ought to just tell what the situation is, rather than a guessing game going on. Do they not want to admit that it was all for naught? Do they not want to admit that money was wasted?

    How does 287g work now?

    If we all knew what the county was supposed to do, there might be different expectation. Why did the Red Circles stop doing their thing out there? Were they told to stay out of there? This should not all be a mystery.

  39. Moon-howler

    I have to ask…are these loiterers bothering people? I don’t go to convenience stores if they have a bunch of people hanging out. Never have. I would think the store owners would get rid of them. They are really the ones who know who is there hanging out and who has legitimate business there.

    If loiterers are just hanging out elsewhere, are they cat-calling and harrassing passersby? Are they defacing property? Are they trampling grass or other property? Are they selling or using drugs?

    I am trying to understand this situation. If I just see someone hanging out, How is this hurting me? I tend to not get involved unless something is clearly against the law, looks like terrorism, or is hurting me or mine.

    Is it just me or is too much information missing from this account to really make a judgement call?

  40. @Rick Bentley
    I meant the police need to document the warning.

  41. @Lafayette
    A written warning for loiterers would take care of any ambiguity. BUT the law itself is fairly ambiguous, which in turn will always put the police at risk for claims of racial profiling. And when we have people calling to complain specifically about Hispanics, then it makes it doubly worse on the cops who have to remain neutral.

  42. Censored bybvbl

    M-h, it’s funny how little info has come out about the loiterers – probably because of a potential lawsuit. However, I expected a certain someone(s) to rush to the nearest camera after yesterday’s WaPo article about how the PWC jail is using a more coordinated database made available by ICE. It uses immigration info, biometrics, and crime info from the FBI. I guess the departments are all talking to each other now. It should be much easier to see which loiterers are legal, illegal, hardened criminals, or merely guys who shot the breeze too long in one spot.

  43. Lafayette

    @Posting As Pinko
    I have called on several different races for incidents involving loiters in my day, and not just in the past two years either.

    I agree a written warning leaves little room for dispute. I also, think the loitering law is like many in the Commonwealth, not perfect.

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