July 19, 2014 at 1:00 am

SATURDAY SHORTS

Balance policing, privacy

Garage sales, like anything else, need to operate within limits. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

New legislation that would put controls on the use of high-tech surveillance equipment by law enforcement has been introduced in the Legislature.

The bills, sponsored by state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, would provide oversight and penalties for misuse of cellular tracking devices.

There are few restraints on the technology, which could gather volumes of information on private citizens.

One bill would require law enforcement officials to obtain a specific warrant before using a tracking device and would also require police to notify, within 30 days, mobile users not specifically named in the warrant if their data were collected.

Another bill creates a state oversight board regarding how surveillance technology is used by law enforcement agencies. This bill has specific penalties for misuse of the technology.

High-tech surveillance systems are great if only used to catch criminals. But safeguards and supervision are needed to prevent abuse.

Garage sales need guidelines

For most people, itís just summer. But for some avid bargain hunters, the warm weather means itís garage sale season.

The popular events usually are controlled by community ordinances to make sure the sale doesnít get out of hand.

Plymouth is the latest city to consider an ordinance, based on a request from residents who were concerned about a neighbor conducting garage sales too frequently. The ordinance, which will have a second reading July 21, would limit the number of garage sales a person can have to three a year. It limits the length of the sales to three days and their times to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Some changes may be made before final approval from the City Commission but the community appears to be headed down a sensible path.

No one wants to prohibit the buying and selling of personal treasures. But reasonable controls are needed to make sure the neighborhood bartering doesnít turn into a flea market operation, which involves a whole new set of regulations.

Agriculture Department is launching group to create urban farming framework

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is launching an urban livestock working group, which will create a framework for the expansion of urban and suburban agriculture in the state.

The department says the goal of the new group is to give cities solid direction in how to grow urban agriculture and keep urban livestock in their own communities.

With an increased interest in urban gardening and farming, clearer guidelines are necessary. They should also provide guidance about how to prevent conflicts.

The group will be facilitated by a third party, yet to be chosen, and its first meeting will be organizational ó to set goals, priorities and details of operation.

Group members come from a variety of backgrounds, including as livestock owners, members of environmental groups, the Michigan Small Farm Council and city representatives.

While we caution against adding layers of bureaucracy to the urban farming process, we hope this group will support these efforts in more urban communities.