LA CAN Discusses: Safer Cities Initiative Punishes Homeless and Poor Residents

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inline_765_ is National Homeless Person’s Memorial Day. The memorial falls on or about the shortest day of each year, in Winter, to acknowledge those who have died without a home of their own. This year the Los Angeles Community Action Network will be using the occasion of the memorial to call attention to its report on the Los Angeles Safer Cities policy in Skid Row. The City of Los Angeles implemented Safer Cities in 2006, ostensibly in response to complaints of crime from various Downtown stake holders. Since then, Skid Row residents and their advocates say policing in the area has focused on redevelopment and removal of the poor, not improved conditions for all. A UCLA study found that in its first year the policy resulted in 750 more arrests per month than in 2005. Of the 12,000 citations issued from September 2006 – August 2007, the majority were for jaywalking. In the first two years of Safer Cities policing, LA CAN reports that the the LAPD issued about 24,000 citations and made over 19,000 arrests in Skid Row. The LA CAN’s survey found that in the last year, police activity in the area continues to focus disproportionately on crosswalk violations, which carry fines of up to $191. It also found that police routinely conducted background checks and handcuffed respondents while issuing violations for minor infractions. Fifty three point six percent of respondents had been arrested in the previous year. As a result of arrest, 51.1% of them lost their housing, 42.2% lost their social services, and 16.4% became unemployed.

GUEST: Becky Dennison, La Community Action Network