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Editorial: Punishment should fit messes left behind

Earlier this month a town of Clifton letter writer to the Journal expressed dismay and disgust at having to step over a heap of puke to enter a downtown store. 

A postal carrier told her such sights are common. The store owner said not only vomit, but “urine and worse” is often found in entryways and flowerbeds.

Our letter writer said this ugliness mars our city’s fine image. She wondered if one solution might be to have those who are arrested for intoxication clean up these messes, especially on weekends, when they mostly occur.

This practical, real-world solution caught our eye. Instead of just assigning certain dollar amounts for municipal fines resulting from downtown problems like disorderly conduct, vandalism, theft, underage drinking, using fake I.D. cards and more, perhaps part of the punishment should be to include early morning cleanup duty along Main Street store, shop and office fronts.

This form of punishment is attractive because it also offers teachable moments for offenders. They would have to sweep away, scrub clean and remove messes left behind by others who were also careless, unruly and destructive, or some combination of the three.

Dollar amounts would still be part of citations, but “community service” would also be included. Cleaning up after others is no fun. A few offenders may find it as revolting as our letter writer from Clifton. They may even learn their lesson. 

And even if they don’t, their community service duties would make sure the welcome mat that’s rolled out for downtown shoppers and visitors remains fresh and clean rather than soiled.