E.L. Acts on People Sleeping in Parking Ramps

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

"It's happened more than once," Deric Grain recalled Tuesday.

He's talking about seeing evidence that people have been sleeping in the stairwells of the East Lansing public parking structures he uses regularly.

"You kind of notice a scent that someone had been there," Grain said.

Although many who use the structures told us they've never seen anything like that, Grain isn't alone.

Some city employees who didn't want to speak on camera say they have seen people -- often drunk or high -- sleeping or passed out in parking ramps.

Some have reported it to police. And the department is taking notice.

"It brings up a lot of concern for the citizens and for us to make sure that everybody is going to be safe in using that structure," East Lansing Police Capt. Tom Johnstone told us.

But as long as a person who parks in the garage can safely walk down the stairs and out the door, the police can't do much of anything about people sleeping in the structures.

"Currently, under city ordinances we don't have anything," Johnstone said.

So he approached Assistant City Attorney Tom Yeadon about giving the police the authority to do something. (The city's trespassing ordinance already covers privately-owned parking structures.)

"We can prohibit using the structures for sleeping and shelter purposes -- those types of ordinances," Yeadon said.

The city of Lansing has its own ordinance, passed in 1988, banning loitering in ramps. Tuesday night, the East Lansing council directed the city attorney's office to come up with an ordinance of its own. It would include a ban on sleeping in structures, although it's unclear just how far it would go.

"Definitely, we're going to work with social services for those individuals," Mayor Sam Singh said. "But obviously, we can't allow people sleeping in our parking structures."

The mayor says the city could take action within weeks.

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