How Downtown Salisbury Evolved into a Ghost Town Part I: The Anti-Cruising Ordinance of 1977

Posted on April 5, 2018

RFP Staff

♦ This is the first in a series of articles on why Salisbury’s Downtown evolved into ghost town with little human traffic save for panhandlers, an array of empty storefronts with brown papered windows, the blighted South Main Badlands with its decrepit eyesore the Empire Hotel, musical chair businesses that disappear within 6 to 8 months after opening, the heavy-handed Municipal Services District Tax to support the Empire Hotel last opened to the public as a flophouse in 1963, the scene of shootings, strong arm beatings, and two murders in 2017, retailers attempting to sell goods at list price when consumers purchase goods significantly cheaper on the internet, historic codes used to keep people in line, costly leases, and a lack of parking.

Our first stop marked the start of Downtown Salisbury decline: “The Anti-Cruising ordinance of 1977”.  The Downtown’s anti-car attitude is nothing new.  It didn’t start with the forgotten promise of the Complete Streets proposal in 2016.  Downtown Salisbury cut its throat back in 1977 when they ended “cruising”, basically young people driving up and down North and South Main and parts of East and West Innes.  It was the way teenagers and 20ish somethings socialized.  It also meant eating and buying stuff.  It gave the Downtown a welcoming look back in the day.  Then members of Salisbury’s establishment decided County, Black, and Hispanic teens didn’t fit in with the Downtown’s alleged historic charm (the area’s boring and outdated mercantile buildings).

When young people were stopped from going there it killed Downtown Salisbury’s aliveness. Young people make a place look alive.  Sure beats a derelict shambling up to people and asking for 33 cents or taking a rock to somebody’s head.

The 1977 Anti-Cruising Ordinance:

Sec. 13-77. – Cruising.

In order to help prevent traffic congestion, obstruction of streets, sidewalks or parking lots, impediment of access to shopping centers or other buildings open to the public or the interference with the use of property or the conduct of business in the area adjacent thereto, no person shall drive or permit a motor vehicle under his care, custody or control to be driven past a traffic-control point three (3) or more times within a two-hour period from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., Monday through Sunday, in or around a posted no cruising area.
At every point where a public street or alley becomes or provides ingress to a no cruising area, there shall be posted a sign which designates “no cruising” and gives the applicable time period. A no cruising area is an area designated where no person shall drive or permit a motor vehicle under his care, custody or control to be driven past a traffic-control point three (3) or more times within a two-hour period.
Traffic-control point, as used in this section, means any point within the no cruising area established by the police department for the purposes of monitoring cruising.
No violations shall occur except upon the third passage by the same traffic-control point within the two-hour period mentioned in this section.
No area shall be designated or posted as a no cruising area except upon the passage of a resolution by the council specifically mandating the designation and posting for a particular area.
This section shall not apply to in-service emergency vehicles, taxicabs for hire, buses and other vehicles being driven for business purposes.
Where there is a violation of any provision of this section, the city shall take the following actions:
A police officer shall issue a citation for the violation, subjecting the violator to a twenty-five-dollar civil penalty to be paid within ten (10) days. The penalty shall provide for an additional twenty-five-dollar delinquency charge upon nonpayment. The penalty and delinquency charge may be recovered by the city in a civil action.
Upon any subsequent issuance of a citation within a seven-day period, a police officer shall issue to the violator a traffic summons in lieu of a civil citation. Violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine of fifty dollars ($50.00).
(Code 1977, § 15-83)

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