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Citing the homeless for tenting violations is not working, new ACLU report says

Rubbish is seen on the financial institution of the Jordan River at a homeless encampment in Salt Lake Metropolis on March 23. A brand new report by the ACLU of Utah discovered a excessive variety of anti-camping citations get issued to the homeless group by some cities in Salt Lake County, when the group says time and sources may very well be higher spent on different outreach efforts. (Laura Seitz, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A brand new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah discovered a excessive variety of anti-camping citations get issued to the homeless group by some cities in Salt Lake County, when the group says time and sources may very well be higher spent on different outreach efforts.

The native chapter of the ACLU known as for regulation enforcement businesses to cease citing and fining individuals for violating anti-camping guidelines, and to standardize the best way officers work together with these experiencing homelessness all through the county.

“We can not arrest our manner out of homelessness. Unsheltered communities are sometimes additional entrenched in day-to-day difficulties as a consequence of expensive and pointless citations or arrests,” Jason Groth, ACLU deputy authorized director, mentioned in a press release Thursday.

“Anti-camping citations don’t handle underlying wants of unsheltered people and don’t dissuade individuals from sleeping in public after they don’t have any different alternative. Punishing individuals for the unavoidable penalties of being unsheltered creates boundaries fairly than options and negatively impacts civil liberties.”

The report “Displaced and Dispersed: The Aftermath of Operation Rio Grande” seems to be into the interactions between police and the unsheltered group because the finish of Operation Rio Grande, a method by which officers sought to lower crime by rising the police presence across the previous downtown Street Dwelling shelter from North Temple to 900 South, and from 300 East to I-15.

The ACLU checked out knowledge from public information requests, however the group mentioned it confronted issue buying the info as some businesses “barred info” by asking for “intensive analysis charges that different departments equipped for free of charge.”


We can not arrest our manner out of homelessness. Unsheltered communities are sometimes additional entrenched in day-to-day difficulties as a consequence of expensive and pointless citations or arrests.

–Jason Groth, ACLU authorized division director


The report discovered each Salt Lake Metropolis Police Division and South Salt Lake Police Division issued comparable numbers of anti-camping citations as they did throughout Operation Rio Grande, however the common price of fines varies by metropolis. In Salt Lake Metropolis, the positive is a mean of $655; in South Salt Lake the common is $712, in accordance with the ACLU. In Taylorsville, fines common $158.

“These various approaches by regulation enforcement and the courts imply that tenting in public locations could result in totally different interactions and outcomes primarily based on an individual’s location in Salt Lake County,” the report states.

One couple talked about within the report has acquired 16 tenting violations, many in the identical areas, since being evicted from a studio condominium in 2020.

Fewer than 7% of tenting citations issued within the county finish in a conviction, however the common size of time the case stays in court docket when a warrant is not issued is three months, the ACLU says.

“Since 2019 in Salt Lake Metropolis, over 65% of people with an anti-camping quotation have had warrants issued, which prolongs the decision of a case. A greater use of money and time may handle underlying points reminiscent of discovering employment, housing and medical care fairly than having unsheltered people needlessly lingering within the felony authorized system ready for dismissal,” in accordance with the report.

The ACLU famous that citations get issued even when individuals camp in “extra distant” areas of the county, together with Little Cottonwood Canyon, Emigration Canyon and Blackjack Gulch.

Khaos, who has been homeless for a few months, gets ready to move his camp in Salt Lake City on June 22.
Khaos, who has been homeless for a couple of months, will get prepared to maneuver his camp in Salt Lake Metropolis on June 22. (Picture: Kristin Murphy, Deseret Information)

Spikes in tenting citations and arrests occurred after Salt Lake Metropolis Mayor Erin Mendenhall determined to renew focused enforcement in July 2021, and when the eviction moratorium resulted in August, and the ACLU means that “insurance policies that particularly goal unsheltered communities and people who collaterally influence them can result in an affect of unsheltered people into the felony authorized system.”

The report notes that Salt Lake County noticed a rise in homeless people in 2021, as numbers went from 268 to 623.

The report encourages the Utah Legislature to move laws that helps homeless individuals defend themselves in court docket. The group desires the state to create a explanation for motion “to litigate the violation of unsheltered people’ rights and (enhance) entry to justice for unsheltered communities.”

The ACLU additionally urges lawmakers to “heart” unsheltered individuals and insecure housing individuals of their coverage discussions.

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Ashley Imlay covers state politics and breaking information for KSL.com. A lifelong Utahn, Ashley has additionally labored as a reporter for the Deseret Information and is a graduate of Dixie State College.

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