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Public urination a steady stream of money for island village

Alissa Widman Neese • Sep 15, 2013 at 2:50 PM

Don’t take a pee if you can’t pay the fee.

Put-in-Bay police cited 32 individuals for public urination this summer, generating at least $5,280 in fines for the tiny village, according to a Register analysis of Put-in-Bay police reports.

A public urination fine ranges from $80 to $150, in addition to an $85 court fee, said Karen Goaziou, Put-in-Bay clerk of courts. If an individual chooses not to appear in court, they are automatically fined $80 and the $85 court fee, making most fines $165.

The fines funnel into the village’s general fund, which is about $1.5 million a year, Goaziou said. Some could argue the minor misdemeanor charge, and relatively minuscule fine, is quite the bargain.

Until about 2000, Put-in-Bay did not have a public urination ordinance, so police charged each individual caught urinating in public with public indecency, a more serious misdemeanor often requiring culprits to register as sex offenders for exposing their genitals, said Don Dress, Put-in-Bay police public relations officer.

Many cities and villages still abide by that policy, but in Put-in-Bay, the frequency of citations issued during the island’s weekend nightlife compelled the department to implement a lesser offense, Dress said.

As with many crimes, whether a police officer cites an individual with public urination during an encounter is up to each officer’s discretion.

Many individuals who urinate in public receive only warnings, not citations, Dress said.    “We always run their IDs in our system to make sure they don’t have warrants or anything like that, but it’s up to (the officer) to decide whether they deserve a ticket,” he said.

Of the 32 individuals police cited with public urination this summer, only one received an additional criminal citation. Thomas Lear, 37, of Amherst, was also cited for disorderly conduct intoxicated because the incident occurred while he caused a ruckus for refusing to leave Beer Barrel Saloon on Delaware Avenue, according to a police report.

Most often, public urination is perpetrated by men walking outside near the village’s downtown bars, with the culprits possessing few, if any, criminal intentions, according to details provided in police reports.

Elliot Herog, of Illinois, perhaps said it best while police confronted him as he urinated on a DeRivera Park tree at about 11 p.m. June 8, according to a Put-in-Bay police report.

“I had to go,” Herog told police while he zipped up his pants. “When you have to go, you have to go.”

Public officials are quick to note the multitude of public restrooms available for island visitors, including a large bathhouse in the middle of DeRivera Park — coincidentally, the most frequent location police catch individuals publicly urinating.

“We have public restrooms in town hall and every restaurant establishment has a restroom as well,” Goaziou said. “There are plenty of bathrooms available.”

Put-in-Bay public urination statistics

• Individuals cited this summer: 32

• Average age: 29

• Gender: 30 men, 2 women

• Hometown: 7 out-of-state, 25 in-state

• Most frequent location: DeRivera Park

Friendly chatter

The Register asked its Facebook friends for their thoughts on public urination citations:

• Paula Mahr: Sometimes the line is just too long I guess.

• Susanna Sharp-Schwacke: 32 people failed in potty training? Seriously, use a freaking bathroom.

• Mamacate Matsushima: Let my people pee!

• Tony Cummings: Easily solved. Walk into the lake, waist deep. Do your business. Walk out of the lake. Party on.

• Brenda Smith: When you gotta go, then go. It’s better than holding it in.

• Todd Algie Young: This seems to be a problem everywhere and at festivals and concerts with all kinds of places to eat and drink. What goes in has to come out! It’s about time the health department or some other government entity makes it a law that so many public restrooms, latrines, rest areas, etc. are required.

• Matthew Schweinfurth: It’s part of nature, just like breast feeding.

• Skip Ott: It’s a revenue maker. If you give the police department a hard time, you’re going to get a ticket.

• Diane Reardon: More public restrooms is my first thought...

• Jody Eckler: Put-in-Bay has a lot of public restrooms right in the park. So I’m thinking the reason for the public urination is the same reason you see “having sex in the parking lot” in their police blotter so often!

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