I live in a town of about 20,000 people, plus a large college student influx in late August, in the state of New York. Not far from my house there is a dam in a creek. Just above the dam, there are bluffs on either side where people like to jump off from very high up into the water. Then they swim over to the bank and clamber up the (eroded) slope to do it again.

News about the thrill of jumping at this spot has been spreading throughout the region, and the spot is now attracting 300 people per day in good weather.

There are a number of problems with this: - Alcohol and serious drug use is increasing among the visitors (e.g. Ecstasy). - We're starting to see all-night parties occurring there. - The visitors leave their cars on nearby residential streets and cause a public nuisance -- littering, blocking residents' access to their driveways, peeing on people's lawns, changing clothes in public, being rude to residents. - There are occasional injuries at the location and every few years someone drowns there.

Swimming, jumping, drinking, littering and staying past dark are all illegal there, but these activities are only a violation. Penalties are listed as "a fine of not more than $250 or imprisonment for a term of not more than 15 days, and not less than $100 or 25 hours of community service."

Our local law enforcement doesn't have enough staffing to go there every day to patrol the area, and when they do go, they feel so outnumbered that they don't feel that it's safe to issue citations -- they are concerned there might be a violent backlash from the crowd.

Question 1: Would it be stronger deterrent to make swimming and jumping a criminal offense, with stronger penalties?

Question 2: How would concerned citizens draft a law to make swimming and jumping a criminal offense?

Question 3: The creek is owned by the City (the smallest entity geographically); the area around the dam is under Town jurisdiction; the policing around the dam is provided by the County sheriff's department, because the Town does not have its own police force. My question is, at which level should we propose a stronger law?

Question 4: Anything else to suggest? Barbed wire? near water's edge, tangled in with the underbrush?

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    New laws aren't going to help, the issue is political. You need coordination between county and city, and apparently higher police budget or the will of the city government to order in the police they have over the officer on the ground's objections. Individuals who trespass and pee on your private property are already breaking a criminal law. If the waterway is "navigable in fact" then public land around it might not be legally fenced off. – user662852 Jul 30 '15 at 13:35

I'll preface this by saying I live in Australia where the lowest jurisdiction that can make an act a criminal offence is the state; local governments simply do not have that power here,

Question 1: If I understand this right you have a law that you do not enforce that carries moderate sanctions and you are asking that a law that you do not enforce with greater sanctions will be a greater deterrent? Well ... no (see here).

If you want to stop the behavior you have to enforce the sanctions that you have in a fair and impartial way. I would suggest that you make it very clear that starting in early September the laws will be enforced - that gives people fair warning. Then, each weekend in September you bring in enough police (State Troopers?) to enforce the law. Its not going to take many $250 fines to make people stop.

Question 2: No comment.

Question 3: No comment.

Question 4: Sounds like a good way of getting the city sued for negligence; just because people are breaking the law does not make it legal to hurt them. If you are serious then fencing the entire area may be worthwhile but the area would still need to be policed.

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  • This is very helpful! Questions: My idea with the barbed wire wasn't to hurt them -- my thought was that it would be accompanied by signs, and that it would be cheaper to put in than complete fencing. ... So you're thinking they could ask the state to send reinforcements from other areas to issue citations to everyone who was observed breaking the law at the site. Interesting idea, and I will look into it. – aparente001 Jul 30 '15 at 12:51
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    4) isn't really negligence; it's more likely to be reckless or even intentional if there are injuries (which there will be). @aparente001 Barbed wire is generally less likely to lead to lawsuits if you go beyond putting up signs and make the wire itself quite visible, and don't put it in a spot where people wouldn't have a chance to see it before touching it. – cpast Jul 30 '15 at 19:04

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