Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Loitering laws are largely unconstitutional

Loitering laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because the court ruled, you can't arrest someone for simply being in one place too long. The ONLY loitering laws that remain are when a suspect loiters in an area in connection with some other real crime, such as someone casing a bank during the planning of a robbery, or a person who is a lookout while someone else is committing a burglary.

This law is a loitering law in disguise. It is unconstitutional.

Apparently this law was triggered by homeless people who, by definition, have no warm, dry home to go to, went into some of the public garages to keep dry. Since public garages are public spaces, the police couldn't find a way to arrest them.

The Sentinel article full of quotes from downtown merchants, cited litter, car burglaries, public urination, and "feeling afraid" as the reasons for the proposed "10 minute rule" for public parking garages and lots.

Only the police and city staff (our employees!!!) will be allowed in parking garages for longer than 10 minutes.

I'm also concerned with the tresspassing charge. Tresspassing is a misdemeanor which means arrest, booking, and jail. It means poor defendants will be entitled to public defenders and jury trials.

Yet, surprisingly, the ordinance is touted as costing virtually nothing, and perhaps even SAVING money by reducing litter.

Public space is for public use. Santa Cruz has not decided to quit enforcing its littering, burglary, assault, and public urination enforcement. The sky is NOT falling.

This is about the bigotry and the prejudice of some small downtown merchants (including Neal, Ryan, and Sheila Coonerty) who don't want to see homeless people near their stores much as southern bigots in the Jim Crow south didn't want black people near their stores because they scare away the white customers.

The message we should get from all of this (besides NO WAY are you going to take away our use of public space!!!) is that OMG there are people who are wet and freezing who have, out of desparation, sought to shelter themselves from the rain in a public parking garage! Let's find a way for them to have better choices--such as in a low-cost public campground.

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