Cities across California are becoming more aggressive in citing and arresting homeless people for simple activities like standing, sitting or resting in public places, says a report from a University of California, Berkeley, legal clinic quoted by the Sacramento Bee. The report finds that local laws against vagrancy are increasingly “criminalizing” the homeless in an effort to drive them from communities and “make them someone else's problem.”
The clinic analyzed municipal codes in 58 cities, including Sacramento, which is facing a constitutional challenge to its camping ordinance. Students conducted case studies in San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego, finding that authorities are increasingly citing and arresting people “based on people's status, being homeless, and not on behaviors like drunkenness and disorderly conduct,” raising troubling constitutional issues. An appeals court upheld Sacramento's ban on camping, but left open the possibility that the ordinance is not evenly enforced, to the detriment of the homeless. That would be a violation of equal protection provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions.