How is an area deemed unsafe and needing to be cordoned off?

Would it be the person at the top of the law enforcement agency (police chief or sheriff) who would make the decision that a particular area is unsafe and needs to be cordoned off with police tape, would it be the elected official at the top (mayor, town supervisor, county administrator), or a judge or magistrate?

What I'm imagining is that after the police tape is put up, and personnel is stationed at the tape to explain to people, if needed, that anyone crossing the tape will be subject to arrest.

  • Jurisdiction, please? – cpast Aug 1 '15 at 23:33
  • @cpast I am in upstate New York. The City owns the land in question, but the spot is under Town jurisdiction. The relevant law enforcement agency is the County. If citations are issued, they are adjudicated in the Town. I hope I answered the question. – aparente001 Aug 1 '15 at 23:46
  • Also, can you give an idea of why it might be deemed unsafe? There are a number of agencies that can declare a restricted area for various reasons; I presume that this isn't, say, a radiation hazard. – cpast Aug 1 '15 at 23:57
  • Correct, no radiation. I am talking about gorge jumping. The jumping off spot is small enough that I think police tape could do it (assuming law enforcement will issue citations if people cross the tape or take it down -- I think/hope I can get this to happen because there was a death at this location a few days ago). But I don't want to call for a particular action which is not legally feasible. Also, I want to direct my efforts toward the correct entity of the three possible ones. – aparente001 Aug 2 '15 at 0:00
  • And then in each entity there are several individual people -- elected official, appointed head of law enforcement, administration (which stays stable even when there is turnover of those elected), and judges. – aparente001 Aug 2 '15 at 0:02

The powers given to law enforcement professionals will be detailed in the relevant law that establishes them.

I would suspect that the decision to cordon off an area would fall within the purview of the officer on the scene; the idea that a police officer would need to seek permission before cordoning off a motor vehicle accident or chemical spill is unworkable. I would also suspect that other emergency personnel (e.g. ambulance and fire-fighters) would have similar powers.

However, such cordoning off would be a temporary measure and if it was maintained for an unreasonable period it would be open to challenge through an administrative or judicial process.

If the police decided that a feature was a permanent hazard then they could seek a court order on the owner of the property to provide some measure to adequately protect the public, by either removing the hazard or providing some permanent barrier, under whatever laws seemed most appropriate.

  • I like your logic, this is helpful. Does three weeks sound unreasonable? Can a citizen or a citizens' group seek the court order that you mentioned? – aparente001 Aug 3 '15 at 1:33
  • You are really going to need to get professional legal advice on this - only a local lawyer familiar with the applicable laws is going to be able to help you on the exact steps you can take. – Dale M Aug 3 '15 at 1:40
  • I tried calling several last week and didn't make it past the receptionist. What type should I look for, and do you have any tips to get past the receptionist? – aparente001 Aug 3 '15 at 4:50
  • Tell them how much money you are going to give them? – Dale M Aug 3 '15 at 5:12
  • But this is a public safety issue, and my community group has no financial resources. – aparente001 Aug 3 '15 at 5:13

A few states including NY have a defined executive government role called "fire police" who can deny access to the site of emergencies; if there has been a recent death then they may be enabled to do this.


"Fire police in New York State are peace officers with full police powers (including that of arrest) when acting pursuant to their special duties.

These are granted under Section 209 (c) of the General Municipal Law. As New York State peace officers, they are required to take an oath, a copy of which must be kept on file in the town clerk's office in the municipality in which they serve. As mandated by Executive Law, Section 845 (Chapter 482, Laws of 1979 and Chapter 843 Laws of 1980), they are also listed with the Central Registry of Police and Peace Officers at the New York State, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Office of Public Safety in Albany, NY. "

I cannot say if your city, county or town has such an office.

  • Even though this doesn't answer the question I was trying to ask, it is very useful information. Googling this term yielded the information that there are 12 of them where I live! If we can recruit them to help with enforcement, and if we can expand the no trespassing rule beyond the water's edge to a flat open area, these fire police could well tip the balance. – aparente001 Aug 3 '15 at 23:02
  • 1
    I followed up on this suggestion. Law enforcement's attitude seems to be a bit dismissive of the fire police, who supposedly don't have enough training to handle such a sensitive problem. I have to make sure law enforcement agencies are comfortable with whatever solution I propose. – aparente001 Aug 31 '15 at 14:18

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