Daily Archives: October 30, 2008

From the print files: THE SHARPEST KNIVES IN THE DRAWER

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was all about knives. The night started with a motion from Councilors Paul Clancy, Joe Petty, and Phil Palmieri, who wanted to add a “voluntary or mandatory” condition that would allow bars to use a magnetic wand to search for concealed weapons. But some bars in town already use the handheld metal detectors and, as Councilor Joff Smith later pointed out, the places that do use the metal detectors are a) the same bars that are having trouble and b) not the kind of bars that the city generally wants to be attracting visitors to.

• NO STATISTICS, JUST TALK: Not surprisingly, no councilors spoke against the new proposed knife ordinance, which would limit possession of knives over 1.5 inches, except for when used in some direct recreational or occupational situations. But a few councilors, including Michael Germain, Phil Palmieri, and Gary Rosen raised concerns about the enforcement of the new ordinance. Rosen also questioned DA Joe Early’s assertion that evidence proves similar laws reduce knife violence. Early admitted there were no firm statistics, just the anecdotal evidence he has heard from law enforcement sources in other cities.

• BLADE III: Essentially, Early’s responses were the same to each question he was asked by councilors about how he will apply any new regulations: He focused on the dangers of “4-, 5-, 6-, 7-inch blades,” despite the fact that the ordinance includes blades much shorter. He repeatedly said that, “Our focus is on … the [after-bar] crowd.” In other words, it’s not about the law, it’s about how it’s applied.

• ANOTHER TOOL IN THE SHED: In essence, with its exemptions, the knife ordinance, when officially passed in November, will be a tool for the police and the DA’s office, much in the same way many officers and DA’s say they use existing laws: It’s not about preventing people from having knives, it’s a tool for officers to use against someone when they suspect another crime, or want to bring multiple charges against a suspect. On Tuesday, DA Early admitted as much, talking about using discretion in the application of the new rules. But as a law based on discretion, it leaves a lot of room for interpretation: Any knife could be used for fishing, hunting, etc; a steak knife or filleting knife is still more dangerous than a 2-inch Leatherman. Do scissors ripped in half suddenly constitute two illegal weapons?

• GANGING UP: Germain and Early raised another specter not talked about in City Hall chambers recently: gangs. Germain question if the recent spate of violence was “mostly” due to gang violence and if knives have replaced guns. “Yes and yes,” answered Early. We are getting to where you’re seeing fewer guns…It is a gang problem. They do understand the problem is lighter with knives. But…it isn’t just gangs.”

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