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November 4, 2005

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Picture asking for $103.50 from mom and dad to pay a ticket from the River Falls Police Department. Then you have to explain the ticket was because you were caught going to the bathroom in public.

In the city of River Falls, 72 tickets for public urination or defecation have been issued since February, 2004.

“It’s a standard type of offense,” said River Falls Police Chief Roger Leque. “It’s an annoyance.”

To be given a ticket, the person urinating must be caught in the act. River Falls Patrol Sgt. Janis Bock said she thinks the same number or more warnings have been issued.

Mark Kimball, University of Wisconsin-River Falls director of public safety, said “when our offi- cers see occurrences of this nature happening [on campus], a citation will be issued.”

Some instances go beyond a normal bathroom break.

Bock recalled an incident where people were attempting to pee on the door handles of a mini-van in a parking lot by Bo’s and Mine and were given tickets.

Ambush tactics have also been employed.

Bock said there were people on the sidewalk aiming to urinate on cars passing by on Main Street.

Other incidents border on bizarre.

Leque recalled an incident when a man defecated on another person’s lawn chair, and in the process, his wallet fell out of his pocket with his identification in it. The man later said he thought it was a friend’s home and that it was intended as a joke.

Bock said the police will patrol the alleys and downtown areas searching for people who are obviously peeing. Going on the front door of a business where people will have to walk in is bad form she said. If the person decides to urinate in a dark area or somewhere in the bushes, she said the police would probably not notice, or do much about it if they did.

Leque said public urination is often in conjunction with alcohol consumption.

Most of the citations are issued to males during bar hours or around bar closing time in the downtown area, Leque said. Since the downtown area has patrons of all ages and both college students and city residents Leque could not say if one group of people were ticketed more often than the other.

Bock said while most are given to males, females have recently been ticketed as well.

“It’s reinforcement of responsible alcohol consumption,” Leque said. “It’s all about responsibility.”

With overindulgence of alcohol, people’s decision making and judgment decrease so they urinate in public areas, Leque said. Also the sudden and urgent need to urinate when intoxicated does not always come when a restroom is convenient.

Bock suggested that people take advantage of the Holiday Station’s bathroom since they are open later than the bars are.

“There’s no excuse for it,” she said. “Good judgment is not always involved because of alcohol.”

While the citation does not go on a permanent record, it can still pose future problems when applying for a job Leque said. If the application asks if you have ever been convicted of a crime, you have to admit it.

However, under Wisconsin law a person can’t be discriminated against in an employment opportunity, unless it’s directly related to the job, he said.

Under the city municipal ordinance 8.32.040, dealing with public nuisances and offending morals and decency, section F says “public urination/defecation [is] prohibited. No person shall defecate or urinate in any public place, on any public property, or on any private property not designed, intended and approved for such use.”

The public nuisance code has been enforced since 1998. It became a separate ordinance because it was previously lumped in with lewd and lascivious behavior, which has a sexual connotation to it. The separate law specifically addresses the issue, Leque said.

Bock said it was a necessary law because if they “take action on the small things, they prevent the bigger things.” On holidays and weekends the police department will put undercover officers to catch the more minor offenses.

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