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.

More from Claudia Peschiutta
  • SLO Deon Joseph

    If you listen closely to the activist that is trying to contradict me, you will hear how they mislead people. At one point she says that the city is allowing skid row to look like it does because we want to take pictures and win an appeal. What she is not telling you is that we are not allowed to introduce any new evidence (photos, videos, witnesses) into the case, so any pictures we take cannot be used in the hearings. We were not even allowed to present evidence at the initial hearing to counter the claims that this activist group presented or to show how poor quality of life contributes to the demise of the homeless in skid row. Also what she won’t tell you is that if her activist buddies see us trying to clean up the refuse the homeless collect on the sidewalk, they will take a picture and give it to the judge which would violate the injunction and make the mess out there permanent. Another truth you will not hear from them is that the city does respond to clean up the trash. But the horded, broken useless items such as broken microwaves, car engines, broken bookshelves, unused donated clothes, couches, office chairs, bike parts, and tarp that are thrown into the street, collected by the homeless and completely cover the sidewalk we cannot when a homeless person claims it as theirs and hides behind it to engage in prostitution, drug/alcohaol sales, and abuse. As a result of this pile up, within hours of ther city cleaning up the obvious trash, it simply returns after street feeders give them more items that they simply throw away in the street.

  • Jacqui Groseth

    I’ve worked in the Skid Row area for almost 4 years now. I find it hard to believe that anyone who has been here within the last 9 months could argue that current conditions are better than then they were prior to the injunction. Unless of course one believes that increasing the level of filth, crime and human suffering are good for the community.

    I challenge anyone who doesn’t live in the Skid Row community to walk along San Julian and 6th Ave and think about how they would feel if the same conditions were being encouraged and protected on the street they live on.

  • SLO Deon Joseph

    Another factor that people should know is that in Skid Row there are people who actually live in the heart of Skid Row in low income supportive housing. These individuals have a right to live in a clean neighborhood as well. The activist want the public to believe that we want to clean the streets so the loft residents on Main and Spring street where they themselves have the luxury of clean safe streets can feel snug and safe. The truth is the loft residents are not affected by what is happening east of Los angeles Street because there are BID’s who clean it up. But the truth is that in the heart of Skid Row (3rd Street to 7th Street, Maple Street to San Pedro), there is no Business Improvement District Security and Clean up the area. So when abandoned property piles up in this area there is no one to clean it up and no place to store it. I am the one who recieves the calls from the shelters, and low income residents of Skid Row asking me how they can get their streets cleaned again, and I cannot help them now, because of the overzealous actions of the area activists who seem care more about their political world view and one uping the police department, then the very people they say they want to help. How can they say that poor quality of life is not a contributing factor in the deaths of homeless people. Weren’t they around in 2005 when 93 people died in Skid Row (18 of them in the street) from non homicidal reason. In 2009 at the height of the Safer Cities Initiative we reduced death in Skid Row down to 63 deaths (Only five died in the street). That is a 32% reduction in death because WE not the activists improved the quality of life for the people in Skid Row. Our efforts even inspired homeless and formally homeless men alike to form a grass roots organization called Operation Face Lift, who would clean the streets daily, which also helped reduce crime. What the activist will not tell you is that the police and many members of the Skid Row community were beginning to work together after their fear campaign against our efforts began to lose it’s teeth. This injuction has nothing to do with helping the homeless, but more to do with sending Skid row back into Dante’s Inferno for rerasons only activists can answer. I truly believe people need to step away from dogmatic world views to really begin to help people, and that is something our detracters are afraid to do. It’s sad actually.

  • http://treesonsanpedrostproject.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/operation-face-liftsaturday-february-25th-2012/ OPERATION FACE-LIFT/Saturday, February 25th, 2012 | Trees on San Pedro Street Project

    […] people out of their own excrement and cleaning the streets has nothing at all to do with any injunction or law against anybody.  In fact, the conditions on San Julian Street themselves should be […]

  • http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/03/25/la-city-attorney-to-drop-appeal-of-ban-on-seizure-of-skid-row-property/ LA City Attorney To Drop Appeal Of Ban On Seizure Of Skid Row Property « CBS Los Angeles

    […] an injunction filed in April 2011, the city is permitted to take abandoned property, but not unattended property which is not […]

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