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Homeless Deaths Revive Controversy Over Property Seizure Ban Along Skid Row

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(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

(credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Claudia Peschiutta Claudia Peschiutta
Claudia Peschiutta is a general-assignment reporter at KNX 1070...
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textalerts180 Homeless Deaths Revive Controversy Over Property Seizure Ban Along Skid Row

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The recent death of another transient on the streets of Skid Row in Los Angeles has reignited the debate over a court ruling prohibiting the seizure of property from homeless people.

KNX 1070’s Claudia Peschiutta reports the sight of a dead body on the streets of downtown Los Angeles has become all too commonplace.

“We see it all the time,” said LAPD Sgt. Doug Bowler, who works out of the department’s Central division. “I’ve been here seven months and I’ve seen way too many.”

An unidentified man found on Tuesday behind a tarp on Third Street and Crocker Avenue marks the latest victim found in the 50-block area east of downtown since the injunction filed last June that prohibits the removal of unattended property anywhere along Skid Row unless the items pose an immediate risk to public health or safety.

If any items are removed, the city is required to store the belongings for 90 days to allow for anyone to claim their property.

“A lot of addicts in the area have piled up garbage and things of that nature on the sidewalk to the point to where it’s blocking the sidewalk, and now they have a hiding place to hide and destroy themselves in,” said Officer Deion Joseph.

He pointed to the case of one homeless woman named Tasha who struggled with alcoholism.

“Many times I would be able to walk down the streets and stop her from her self-destructive behavior because I could see her, but as a result of this injunction, she was able to hide inside of her tent under garbage and she ended up dying,” Joseph said.

But local activists like Becky Dennison of the L.A. Community Action Network rejects any suggestion that the injunction would be cited as a factor in the deaths of homeless people like Tanya.

“The injunction does not prevent LAPD or the city in general from picking up any trash,” said Dennison. “If this really is a problem, all they need to do is start picking up the trash again.”

City attorney Carmen Trutanich has asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the injunction, citing the mounting levels of trash along the city’s sidewalks as the homeless population’s “own public storage area”, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But apart from any legal maneuvering, Joseph argued that the city could greatly benefit from an increased police presence without the courts limiting the LAPD’s role.

He cited the controversial Safer City initiative launched in 2006 that brought 50 additional police officers to Skid Row and saw immediate reductions in crime and other illegal activity — along with a backlash from homeless advocates.

“When we have our hands tied with injunctions because people won’t come off the bench to see what’s going on down here and then make a decision, that’s when people start dying,” Joseph said.

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