Thursday, September 06, 2012

L.A. Can't seize homeless property

In the news (title linked to Los Angeles Times article, until such time as it is archived, that is):

The city of Los Angeles lost in a court appeal case. Homeless people sought an injunction to prohibit police from seizing their unattended possessions. The city appealed and it was decided that "violating a city ordinance does not strip a person of his or her 4th Amendment right against unlawful seizure of property."

The article continues:

“Were it otherwise, the government could seize and destroy any illegally parked car or unlawfully unattended dog,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, wrote for the majority.
A dissenting judge argued that the homeless had been given adequate warning to remove their possessions and were provided with a warehouse for storing them.
“Common sense and societal expectations suggest that when people leave their personal items unattended in a public place, they understand that they run the risk of their belongings being searched, seized, disturbed, stolen or thrown away,” wrote Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, appointed by former President George W. Bush.

I do not know why which president appointed the judges is relevant to the story. Unlawful, unattended dogs are often seized, taken to the pound and if not claimed,  euthanized.   Illegally parked cars, get tickets, and I do believe if the car continues to sit, it is eventually towed and kept in impound.  Those cars are most likely sold at auctions if left unclaimed. I am not making a case for or against such practices. I can see the judge's logic in considering other scenarios ~ every court case sets a precedence, so that to rule in favor of the city in the homeless possessions matter was probably for the best.

Yet I agree with the second quoted judge. I never left my possessions unattended, shoot, I was leery of leaving my stuff with homeless peers even for a short walk to nearby store. My peers made fun of me because I was so loathe to trust them to watch over my stuff, say, to go inside library. 

What if's rule me: what if the watcher of my stuff leaves? What if they get arrested leaving my stuff unattended? I had good reason to consider that even some of my closest homeless peers could be gone when I returned. When I did chance leaving my stuff with someone, I would not leave anything of value ~ wallet, money, debit card, cell phone, ID and such. I would have hated to lose the little bit of clothing I still had, the bedroll, but would risk those things. 

Of course I sympathize with people who call the streets their home; I feel for those whose camps were razed, losing dentures, birth certificates, prescription meds, eyeglasses; yet think they might have considered such things should not be left unattended.  A small backpack could be used when leaving to get a meal at the Mission or to use a restroom.  

In addition city sidewalks truly should not be set up with all the comforts of home, just the basics. Of course people are different; what one considers essential another does not. I for one would not consider dragging around a television set, no matter how small it would be, but some of my peers did exactly that. A television left unattended on Skid Row, might be quickly stolen ~ no advance notice from police about street cleanups.

A solution would be to have storage units and lockers available for homeless usage. I know, I know, paid for by whom...

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