By Jordan W. Charness

Around 10 o’clock at night, Tammy, an attractive young lady in her early 20s was out walking her dog. Although her dog looks ferocious, its bark is definitely worse than its bite. Nevertheless, she always felt secure while walking her dog in her quiet suburban neighbourhood.

As she was walking the last few house lengths before her home she got an uncomfortable feeling that she was being watched. She turned slowly and saw a car following her with four young men inside who quickly turned their heads away when they saw her looking at them. She quickened her pace and almost ran for home.

When she got there she looked out the window and saw that the car was parked on the street about one house over and she assumed that the guys in the car had gone to visit her neighbour. A few minutes later she happened to look out her window and noticed that the young men were still in their car and had not actually gone inside.

She mentioned this fact to her parents who assured her that everything was probably in order but that they would keep an eye on the car from their bedroom window to make sure that nothing was amiss. When the young men had still not exited their car some 20 minutes later, Tammy’s mother started to get worried that they might be up to no good. She decided to call the town’s security department.

A few minutes later security arrived and went over to question the young men. Tammy and her mother watched from the bedroom window to see what would happen. It appeared that the security agent and the young men were getting into a heated discussion. A few minutes later the police arrived and went over to the car as well.

By this time it seemed pretty safe so Tammy her mother went outside to see what was going on. The young men were insisting they had just pulled over on a quiet street to talk since they didn’t really feel like going out for coffee and just wanted to catch up with each other as they had not seen each other for some time.

They insisted that they were doing nothing illegal since they were simply parking in a spot on the street where it was perfectly legal to park.

On the other hand the police explained to them that in this day and age people have become more wary of suspicious behaviour and having four young strangers parked on a quiet side street in a suburban neighbourhood was disturbing to the residents.

A quick check of ID showed that none of the four had any wants or warrants against them and running the car’s license plate did not show any outstanding tickets. Nonetheless the police were insistent that the young men should leave and go wherever it was they were originally intending to go. The young men were insistent that they had the right to stay as it was “a free country”.

While it is indeed a free country there are laws against behaviour that may seem legal but in fact is not. In this particular case the young men could have been charged with the criminal code offence of loitering which carries with it a fine of up to $2000 and a maximum of six months in jail upon conviction.

This criminal code offence is listed in the section entitled Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct. It makes it illegal to loiter in a public place. Two paragraphs further down the criminal code also makes it illegal to loiter on private property. Hanging around in a car whether in a driveway or on the street may conceivably break this law even in “a free country”.

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