No hoops playing in street, Macon committee decides

The city of Macon is moving to crack down on street basketball games.

On Monday, the Public Safety Committee of City Council approved an ordinance that says playing basketball or other sports in the street, or placing a basketball goal on a street or sidewalk, can be declared a nuisance. That would allow police to issue citations to neighborhood basketball players or residents hosting a game.

Councilman Lonnie Miley, who sponsored the ordinance, said he did so for two primary concerns: Games often take place on corners or around curves, making them hard for drivers to see. They also create potential for confrontation when players don’t want to move out of the way for passersby.

“It can become a safety hazard,” Miley said. Plus, he added, loud, foul-mouthed basketball games have become an irritant to residents who like to sit on the front porches of their homes.

For the ordinance to become law, it would have to pass the full council next week. The committee approved the legislation unanimously with little discussion.

Councilman Virgil Watkins, the committee chairman, said as someone who has played games in the street, such legislation does not seem out of place.

“You understand it is the street and can be a safety hazard for kids,” he said. Watkins suggested that players could move their game to a nearby empty lot where their presence is less obtrusive to street traffic.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Carswell said he understands a new law could feel severe to youngsters accustomed to playing pickup games in the neighborhood. But he said the games can be shifted to city recreation centers and other public courts as long as the city maintains the sites and keeps them secure.

Carswell said he grew up playing ball in the street and he understands its appeal. But he said that if the ordinance becomes law, it will be actively enforced and ultimately is needed for everyone’s safety.

“Times change,” he said.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.