police propose anti-sleeping ordinance in Jacksonville, FL FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 5 Feb 1998 17:55:40 -0800 (PST)

FWD Published Wednesday, February 4, 1998, in the Miami Herald


JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- (AP) -- Sleeping in public would be a crime if a
constitutionally questionable ordinance proposed by the police department
is approved by the City Council.

Police Chief Bruce Thomason introduced the ordinance to make it a crime to
sleep on public property.

The police chief cited ``increasing concerns expressed by many citizens
about persons sleeping and camping in public places.''

Residents have told council members they are afraid to go downtown at night
because of the large number of homeless people sleeping on the beach.

The ordinance, which was unanimously approved on its first reading Monday,
states that violators ``must be given the opportunity to go to a public or
private shelter which is reasonably accessible, or the person warned must
be offered transportation.''

There are no homeless shelters in Jacksonville Beach, and city officials
have argued against them.

A public hearing must be held before the ordinance becomes law.

Another hearing is expected Feb. 16.

Under the proposal, a first offense will carry a $25 fine, up to 10 days in
jail or at least 50 hours of community service.

A second offense carries up to a $500 fine, up to 90 days in jail or at
least 500 hours of community service.

Andy Kayton, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of
Florida, said Tuesday that council members should consider the 10-year
legal battle Miami had over homeless issues. The city recently agreed to
pay $1.5 million in restitution for violations of civil rights.

``This sounds like a law that targets the homeless,'' Kayton said. ``You
can't turn homelessness into a crime. It's a social problem.''


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