[Hpn] "We're rebelling against the restraining order, bottom line,"

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Sat, 09 Dec 2000 17:17:32 -0700


Saturday, December 9, 2000

Police Arrest 15, Cite 70 in New Skid Row Crackdown
 Homeless: Officials say they are complying with restraining order and
insist they are seeking to stem a rise in crime.

By ERIKA HAYASAKI, Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles Police Department task force patrolled the heart of the
downtown skid row area Friday, arresting and citing scores of homeless
people for jaywalking and other violations.

Police said the intent was to target rising crime and show that officers
will not back down in the wake of a temporary restraining order issued last
Friday. 

"I have never seen so many cops here," said Cynthia Valles, 41, who has been
homeless in the area for about six months. "They are overdoing it. They are
harassing us 24/7." She had just been cited for jaywalking on San Julian
Street near 6th Street.

The restraining order states that officers cannot stop the homeless without
reasonable suspicion, demand identification on the threat of arrest, search
possessions without reasonable suspicion, confiscate the property of a
homeless person if it has not been abandoned or issue citations for
loitering. 

But Sgt. Andy Mathes said officers have not been harassing homeless people,
and that officers were merely doing their job Friday: issuing citations and
arresting people for violations of the law.

"Our task is to protect the community, and the temporary restraining order
doesn't change anything," said Mathes, who was in charge of the detail.
"Officers have not been outside of the law at any point."

About 30 members of the LAPD Central Division and state parole officers took
to the streets at 9 a.m. Friday, focusing on a three-block area around San
Julian Street and 5th and 6th streets, which is known for high crime.

As of 6 p.m., police had written about 70 citations and made about 15
arrests. Most tickets were issued for jaywalking, but arrests were made when
outstanding warrants or drugs were discovered, or when someone ran from
officers. 

Myong McSween, 42, said she did not understand why she was ticketed for
jaywalking across San Julian.

She was close to tears as she was handcuffed for refusing to give
identification to Mathes so he could issue a citation.

"Why nobody helps me?" she asked. "Why are they doing this? Why are they
picking on me?" 

About six homeless people watched as McSween was handcuffed.

"Isn't there a federal injunction for you to stop harassing the homeless?"
yelled Otha Tardy, 50, who has lived on skid row for two months. "This is
our community. There's nothing wrong with crossing the streets between these
centers." 

About 20 people gathered in front of the Lamp Center, one of the facilities
for the homeless on San Julian, and watched nine police officers issue
jaywalking citations to those who walked across the street with disregard.

"Fascist pigs!" yelled Alvin Lambert, 42, who is homeless.

As officers drove down San Julian, homeless people scowled and made obscene
gestures. 

One man imitated a gun with his fist and pointed it toward Mathes as he
drove by. "You see that gun, that's the way it's going to be next time," he
said. "Don't you forget that."

Mathes said the jaywalking citations were issued for the safety of the
homeless. 

"Do you know we had a guy get killed three weeks ago who was jaywalking?"
Mathes told Cladius Moore, 46, a homeless man who had received his second
jaywalking ticket of the day by 9:15 a.m.

Pedestrian deaths have been relatively high this year in the Central
Division, which includes skid row and the downtown area, compared to other
areas. And many of those killed in the Central Division were homeless
people, police say.

Violence, robberies and drug use have increased on skid row, a 50-block area
with about 11,000 transients, since the lawsuit was filed two weeks ago and
police limited their enforcement actions, Mathes said. This year, four
homeless people have been killed in the Central Division and 32 homeless
people have been victims of rape or other sex crimes.

"We are trying to look for parolees at large and the drug dealers that have
infiltrated the community here and are preying on the homeless and the
citizens," Mathes said.

But Tardy, who frowned as eight officers lined up three people who were
jaywalking, said it was a waste of manpower.

"They are trying to be a nuisance," he said. "They could be doing something
else." 

Carol Sobel, a lawyer representing the homeless in the ACLU lawsuit against
the LAPD, called the police action "outrageous."

"The captain is issuing tickets for jaywalking, and people can't pay those
tickets and then they go to warrants, and then he has a basis for arresting
them," she said. "There's no rational relationship with a jaywalking ticket
and the violent crime he says he wants to address."

Mathes said crime usually decreases after task force operations like
Friday's. 

LAPD Officer Barbara Jones questioned the decision to patrol skid row
Friday, a week after the court order was issued.

"We're rebelling against the restraining order, bottom line," she said
during the 10 a.m. Central Division roll call.

In response, Mathes said: "This restraining order isn't changing business at
all. You all know me pretty well, I wouldn't send you out there to do the
wrong thing." 

Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times


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