Is arrest the best way to deal with problems of homelessness? The police claim the crackdown was to deal with “aggressive panhandlers”, but homelessness seems the root problem.
Advocates for the homeless are calling the Tempe Police Department’s four-day crackdown on panhandling and other crimes in downtown Tempe heavy-handed, potentially undoing years of efforts to help the homeless in the area.
Uniformed and undercover police patrolled Mill Avenue during the “Downtown Enforcement Campaign” that yielded 30 arrests. They included four on charges of panhandling, 16 for public liquor-law violations, one for the sale of narcotics, a felony-burglary warrant and five for various city-code violations.
Summers said he wishes Tempe police would have spoken with organizations offering the homeless support before turning to a crime sweep.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with police,” he said. “We know these (homeless) people. We could have helped make a difference . . . talked to them . . . instead of scaring them.”
This news story has to do with Tempe, Arizona but I think the problem is widespread. Often the police are used to crackdown on what is seen as problems caused by homeless people. But as someone in a related thread recently mentioned, when a person is homeless they can’t afford to pay fines.
And often homeless people are arrested for things that other people are not arrested. A study of homeless arrests during 2005-2006 in Cincinnati Ohio showed that:
Minor Misdemeanors accounted for 25.38% of charges and 46.88% for misdemeanors of all degrees. Some of the most common charges associated with homeless individuals are: open flask charges, public indecency due to public urination, sitting on the sidewalk, spitting in a public place, dumpster diving (upsetting public and private receptacles), littering charges, loitering charges, solicitation charges (commonly improper solicitation for panhandling), trespassing charges, and disorderly conduct charges.