High Court to Hear Public Housing Safety Case

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The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments Wednesday in a dispute over measures taken to control open-air drug sales in a Richmond, Va., housing project called Whitcomb Court. Six years ago, declared the streets and sidewalks in the project and other developments the private property of the housing authority, the Washington Post reports. The agency up “no trespassing” signs and empowered police to arrest any nonresident who could not show a “legitimate business or social purpose” for being there.

Kevin Hicks, who said he was delivering diapers to one of his children was arrested as a repeat violator of the policy who had been warned in writing to keep out. He served a year in jail for trespassing. Now his appeal is being heard in the Supreme Court.

Both sides in the debate say they represent the interests of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents, the Post says. “The whole concept behind this is to really try to make the community safer,” said Tyrone P. Curtis, executive director of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA), which serves about 12,000 public housing residents.

On the other side, given that almost all housing project residents are black, “there is a clear constitutional violation of creating a suspect classification of African American males,” said Sa’ad El-Amin, a Richmond City Council member whose district includes Whitcomb Court.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A46273-2003Apr27.html

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