Holly Springs may require trespassers to pay fines and do community service

aspecht@newsobserver.comJuly 16, 2014 

— If you’re caught trespassing on town property, Holly Springs may tell you to come back sometime to sweep up the trash or put a fresh coat of paint on a bench.

Holly Springs Town Council members on Tuesday said they want to require people who are caught trespassing to pay a fine and work a few community service hours for the town.

Under their proposal, first-time offenders would be fined $25 and be required to perform five hours of community service.

Second-time offenders would be fined $50 and be required to perform 10 hours of community service.

The fine would jump to $75 for third-time offenders, along with 20 hours of community service.

Council members suggested the town issue fines up to $200 to violators who refuse to perform the community service.

After approving a ban on tobacco use in town parks, the council asked the town attorney to draft their trespassing punishment ideas so they can vote on them at an upcoming meeting.

It was the second time the Holly Springs council sent town staff back to the drawing board.

The town has pursued a milder punishment for trespassers who don’t vandalize town property since five kids were caught trespassing at Womble Park last month.

Town rules currently allow Holly Springs to ban trespassers from town parks for a year regardless of whether they damage town property.

The town didn’t punish the five kids caught at Womble Park, but parents still criticized the punishment on the books as too rigid.

Last month, the town rejected a proposal that included a one-month ban for first-time trespassers and would have required offenders to go before a panel of employees and police officers.

Parents didn’t like it, and council members said they didn’t want to turn a simple trespassing incident into a “tribunal.”

On Tuesday, town staff proposed a plan almost exactly like the council’s proposal – but without the community service.

But council members worried that the fines were too small to dissuade potential trespassers.

“We should probably make the fines a little stiffer,” Councilman Hank Dickson said.

Rather than increase the fines, which council members feared may financially hamstring some families, they added community service hours to the punishment.

“You want it to be constructive,” Councilwoman Cheri Lee said.

Kathy Toma, a local parent, praised the council for trying to make the punishment more reasonable. But she doubted that the council should require more from trespassers than a small fine.

She addressed recent comments by Dickson, who said he worried that parents of kids who trespass would pay the fine for them and let them off the hook “without consequence.”

“That may be true for some, but I would hope that parents hold their children responsible for their own actions,” Toma said.

The town is still looking into expanding free-play hours at Womble Park, which Toma said she considers the bigger issue.

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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