Following complaints from business owners and a recent incident downtown, Mobile Police will step up patrols in the entertainment district.
The district recently had an issue with large, disorderly crowds in the district. The issue was punctuated last month when the MPD responded to a shots-fired call.
On July 17, police responded to an altercation on the 200 block of Dauphin Street. As officers moved toward the disturbance, three shots were fired into the air, according to an MPD statement. As a result of the shots, a large crowd dispersed. No injuries were reported.
Four days later, police arrested 24-year-old Tevin Gamble in connection with the complaint.
In response to the incident, police said they will ramp up enforcement of several ordinances already on the books for the entertainment district in order to control similar crowds in the future.
Last month, MPD released a statement saying the department would more strictly enforce the district’s open container ordinance. The ordinance allows for the consumption of alcohol outside the district’s bars and restaurants, but only under certain circumstances.
An alcoholic beverage can be removed from a downtown licensed establishment only if it is in a paper or plastic cup with a commercially printed name and/or logo of a designated licensee. A paper or plastic cup with the “LODA” logo obtained from Downtown Mobile Alliance is also an approved container for alcoholic beverages. The size of any approved alcoholic beverage container cannot exceed 16 fluid ounces. Police will issue citations to individuals who don’t comply with the open container law.
The ordinance also designates two areas of downtown where open containers are conditionally allowed. Mobile has two entertainment districts along Dauphin Street separated by a three-block gap starting near Cathedral Square. One stretches from Water Street to Franklin Street and the other extends from Cedar Street to Bayou Street. The strict enforcement includes areas not designated as entertainment districts, MPD spokeswoman Charlette Solis wrote in an email message.
The MPD will also more strictly enforce the city’s so-called “boombox” ordinance, which prevents the playing of music from a boombox, car stereo or other device that can be easily heard from 25 feet away. Officers will be looking to cite offenders of this ordinance. Punishment comes in the form of a $435 fine or possible jail time. In a statement, police added they will also increase curfew checks in the district. Minors may not be in the downtown entertainment district between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on any day, except New Year’s Eve and during Mardi Gras.
Levon Manzie, who represents the downtown area on the Mobile City Council, said he was happy to hear of the enforcement plans and said any measures taken by the council would be done as a last resort.
“We’ll try that before the council gets involved,” Manzie said. “Enforcement should be tried first.”
Since the shots were fired last month, there have been several thoughts on what the city can do to help protect visitors to the downtown area. These include closing a portion of Dauphin Street at certain hours during nights and weekends or hiring a full-time security guard for the district’s parking lots. These ideas would have a varying degree of success, Downtown Mobile Alliance spokeswoman Carol Hunter said.
She said at one time Dauphin Street was closed to traffic during certain hours, but that was changed. As for preventing cruising or loitering in parking lots, Hunter said she thinks that would just move the problem to other locations within the entertainment district, as cross streets would remain open.
Hunter said the Alliance has asked the parking lot owners to consider hiring attendants.
“Everything is worth considering,” she said.
This story was updated on Wednesday, Aug. 17 to correct a paraphrased quote from Downtown Mobile Alliance spokeswoman Carol Hunter on parking lot attendants.