Guilty Verdicts in Freedom Sleeper Trial: Assembly Ban on City Hall Grounds Continues

 

Right of Nighttime Assembly at City Hall Crushed in Courtroom 1

by Robert Norse

Saturday Jun 25th, 2016 3:45 PM

After an hour and a quarter trial, retired Judge Sam Stevens found me guilty. Chatty and friendly, Stevens initially gave the impression that his ruling would favor the defense, praising the legal work done by attorney Kate Wells in preparing the brief prior to trial (some of the work was done by Steve Pleich).

The only witnesses were Norse and the two police officers who cited him, first on July 5th, and again on August 12th late at night. Stevens stated that the time of the citations was key. It is legal to be around City Hall during the day, but forbidden to be in the city hall courtyard after 10 PM.

The law allows you to be “on the access paths through the area”. We presented photos of me on the pathways. City attorney Gallogly countered with testimony that I’d been off the pathway at different points making audio recordings of arrests. Stevens found that irrelevant, noting it was the “agenda access” argument that was key.

This principal defense was that the City had to allow the public 24 hour access to the agendas that were posted inside the “forbidden” area for a period of 72-hours before any agendaized meeting. Hence, the defense argued, police could not site members of the public for going there if any such meetings were scheduled.

Stevens seemed to wrestle with this argument for a time, but ultimately upheld Gallogly’s response that the proper remedy for a Brown Act violation was a civil lawsuit. Stevens agreed that the City’s violation of the Brown Act was not in and of itself a defense against “trespass” on City Hall grounds at night.

Both ignored the basic fact that City Hall is the seat of government where the right to freedom of peaceful assembly is most important. Denial of the right to be present there to petition for a redress of grievances would seem a classic violation of the First Amendment of both the state and federal Constitutions. I am unaware of any other City Hall grounds that have been permanently closed at night.

It is a highly unusual and outrageous restriction on public access. In Santa Cruz it was done in a backroom maneuver in 2010 to exclude a peaceful homeless protest (PeaceCamp 2010) protesting the same Sleeping Ban issue. A year later this Ban on being around government buildings was extended to a 7 PM -7AM ban at the County Building to drive away the Occupy Santa Cruz movement.

Stevens later made some comments about “making the police job easier to prevent vandalism at City Hall”, but no instances of vandalism were cited justifying such a severe nighttime ban on all public assembly there. Ironically, Stevens himself had turned back Mayor Rotkin’s 1996 attempt to shut down still another homeless protest at City Hall with such a ban.

Gallogly and Stevens both ultimately hinged their decision on a fallacious analogy. “You wouldn’t let someone break into a closed building to read agendas, even if the City should have posted them outside, right? So here you’re not allowed to ‘trespass’ even though the agendas should have been posted in an accessible place.”

Equating access to a public area with destroying property is, of course, ridiculous.
Forced entry into closed buildings at night in a considerably different matter than walking up to a display case to see what City bureaucrats are cooking up. Such access was accepted as a matter of right until 2010, when it was denied the entire community to discourage activists from embarrassing the City about its treatment of homeless people.

The job of the police would be made easier by requiring everyone to answer police questions and submit to searches. But is that what we want to tolerate in a democratic society?

When asked why he has retreated to this new reactionary repressive position, Stevens replied with a smile “times have changed.”

Stevens made much of the fact that police were friendly, gave me a chance to leave, and were acting under orders. Using this line of logic, basic rights can be swept aside by if police are friendly, coach us to give up our rights voluntarily, and are “just following orders”? A sad conclusion–particularly for a judge once a defender of the rights of protesters and the public.

Indeed, the new mythos of the city Staff and the Take Back Santa Cruz crowd sees danger in folks sleeping in their cars. They have removed the grass lawns of the City Hall grounds apparently to discourage daytime resting there. Chillingly the City’s ban on handicraft artists downtown selling their handicraft artwork downtown under the mew Commercial Vending ordinance went into effect on Friday, June 24th.

As the bumper sticker says, “Ignore your rights and they’ll go away”.

I was sentenced to 20 hours of Community Service over the objections of City Attorney Gallogly who wanted me to pay $198. The second citation was dropped.

TO READ AND MAKE COMMENTS, GO TO: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/06/22/18787930.php?show_comments=1#18788095

Freedom Sleeper “No Assembly at City Hall Grounds at Night” cases Go to Court

Date Friday June 24
Time 1:30 PM – 3:00 PM
Location Details
County Courthouse Superior Court 1
Event Type Court Date
Organizer/Author Robert Norse
Email rnorse3 [at] hotmail.com
Phone 831-423-4833
Address
In an attack on peaceful protest against the City’s anti-homeless Sleeping Ban outside City Hall each Tuesday night, police have forced activists off the grounds and ticketed many.In a court trial before Judge Sam Stevens, attorney Kate Wells will argue that two citations given to Robert Norse were invalid.She will argue that (a) closing the City Hall Courtyard at night illegally denied access to the City agendas, posted just outside City Council; (b) Norse was on a pathway through the area–an exception to the “no access” order; and (c) banning peaceful public assembly at the seat of government in the absence of some kind of emergency is unconstitutional.

At a hearing last week, Judge Paul Marigonda has already refused to order the police to present video and audio of the incidents. City Attorney Gallogly claims that police have advised him that they were just “pretending” to video/photo and/or the evidence was destroyed. None of this prompted any objection from Marigonda.

More background: “Freedom Sleeper Case Demands Police Release Video Records ” at http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/06/16/18787630.php .

TO READ OR MAKE COMMENTS GO TO:  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/06/22/18787930.php

Is JURY NULLIFICATION a cause worth getting arrested for? Yes

NOTES BY NORSE:    Jury Nullification–the right of a jury (even a single juror) to block a prosecution even if s/he believes a defendant guilty but feels the law is unconstitutional, wrong applied, and abusive–is something judges, prosecutors, and PD’s don’t talk about.  Are even banned from talking about.  But it was an important aspect to early victories in the homeless court struggle in the late 80′s and early 90′s when homeless activists occupied buildings and resisted the Sleeping Ban in greater numbers.   Chuck Jagoda, Palo Alto activists, sends us this e-mail, an inspiring reminder that struggling against an unjust system rather than making deals with it, can yield success.   Unfortunately Jury Nullification is something that applies to ordinary people, jurors, not people who have bought into and run the system like judges and commissioners.  Infractions-http://huffsantacruz.org/wordpress/wp-admin/post-new.php-such as those most protesters are faced with–don’t get jury trials.  But misdemeanors and felonies do.  Recently we’ve seen the Final 4 of the Santa Cruz 11, the Hiway 6, and others plead out rather than face the threats and tension of trials.  There is another option.

Hi All–
I’m ending up sending you all this for different reasons.  The one underlying reason to send it to you all is that it’s a breakthrough in an important area of our legal rights– something I learned about from Aram.  It’s a basic Constitutional right but denied to us in most cases.
NJ Weedman is a very brave and successful person.  Brave in that he takes on the law and all its resources.  Successful in that he has won some important trial points.  He defeated the State of NJ in court with a very effective jury nullification brief that halted a lot of similar prosecutions that had been in the works and then got dropped.
I think Tianay should be well aware of Ed Forchion’s success and spirit.  I think we all should.
Chuck

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Santa Cruz 11 Court Date Earlier 8:15 AM 7/14 Dept 6

UPDATE:  COURT HEARING WILL BEGIN AT 8:15 AM NOT 9 AM
https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/07/13/18774843.php

NOTE BY NORSE:  At least two HUFF members (myself and blogger Becky Johnson) were targeted as part of the Santa Cruz Eleven group, requiring dozens of hours of court time, jobs and income lost, and perhaps most important a freezing fear descended on the community around Direct Action organizing.  I encourage folks to show up in support of the Final Four of the Santa Cruz Eleven.

The four are charged with “felony vandalism” for having been in a vacant Wells-Fargo bank bujilding (still vacant four years later), some as journalists, some as supporters of housing for the homeless and a community center, some in opposition to Wells Fargo’s still unpunished foreclosure fraud, some as observers.  No evidence has been presented since this case was first charged in 2012 that any of the SC-11, or any of these four committed vandalism.   Instead the prosecution will argtue that simply being in a building after a trespass warning is given where others commit vandalism “aids and abets” the vandals.   The prosecution is using a strategy where “the process is the punishment” by making the defendants appear again and again.

It’s a phony and dangerous trial being used to silence dissent and spread fear among activists.  And perhaps curry favor with the Wells Fargo Bank and the police–who were forced to back down and may have felt they had egg on their face.

Robert Norse

Santa Cruz 11 Heads Towards Trial

Court Date Tomorrow 7/14!  9am Dept 6

Support still needed for the Santa Cruz 11!

Tomorrow morning, Tuesday 7/14, at 9 am in Department 6 of the Santa Cruz Courthouse defense attorneys for the remaining 4 of the SC11 will be discussing possible pre-trial outcomes of the case with prosecutor Greg Peinado.

This is the first court date of the month that may prove to be a big one for the remaining defendants. With trial potentially starting in just two weeks, let’s show up in support! Just being there can really make a difference to those charged, especially as it has been years since the occupation that led to all of this. Court can be really isolating and uncomfortable, let’s make sure our friends know they are cared for!

This is also an opportunity to show the City that we are still paying attention and care about what is happening.

Tomorrow, there seems to be the possibility of attorneys coming to a pre-trial settlement (plea bargain or deal), or at least making steps in that direction. As of yet, Peinado has not offered anything to the defendants, and has often said he has to consult with his “higher ups” in before making or responding to offers of settlement. This is a continued practice after being criticized in court for coming to hearings without the power to do anything, therefor wasting the time of the judge and defense attorneys as well as tax payer money.

It seems that the defendants are preparing to go to trial while also being open to resolving the case beforehand if the City were to offer something they could agree to. The prosecution has pushed for a large restitution in this case and held on to the felony charges despite having the power to resolve this case by dropping or lowering the charges and restitution.

It has been a question throughout this case of where the motivation and power lie in the prosecution. Bob Lee and his ties to Wells Fargo were influential, but now he is no longer with us. Who is in charge? Who is asking for the continued prosecution and seeking of restitution? Is it Wells Fargo? Or City of Santa Cruz officials?

Regardless of the answers to these questions it is up to us to show each other that we care when the City and State repress activists and members of our community. It is up to us to find what is inspiring about this situation, or create that inspiration for ourselves.

See you tomorrow friends!

Copyright © 2015 Support the Santa Cruz Eleven, All rights reserved.
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Santa Cruz, CA 95063

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Fresno Victory: Spanking City Hall For Destroying Homeless Survival Gear

NOTE BY NORSE:  This Fresno victory around the confiscation of homeless property should speak to us in Santa Cruz.

Destroying homeless encampments has been the intensified practice in Santa Cruz for the last three years under Mayors Lane, Bryant, and Robinson and the all-powerful City Manager Martin Bernal.  Among activists there has been some talk, but no action.

As is often the case in reactionary times, court action is the most visible sign of effective resistance to the endless creep of the abuses of the wealthy 1% and the 30% who trail along after them.

In Santa Cruz, though I haven’t heard the most recent report, Homeless Persons Legal Assistance Project advocate Steve Pleich, MHCAN Executive Direcctor Sarah Leonard, and out-of-town  attorney Judy Bari have been gathering info for a Sacramento-style lawsuit to both recover property destroyed by the SCPD and Parks and Recreation as well as deter such thefts in the future.  In Sacramento the Lehr decision (http://www.scribd.com/doc/65998790/Lehr-v-City-of-Sac ) upheld the trial findings (“a practice of seizing and then throwing away or destroying the property of homeless persons”)–something they hope to duplicate here in Santa Cruz.

The Santa Cruz ACLU had no problems with “the cop as court” Stay-Away orders a year ago in City Parks (See “Round Two–The New Anti-Homeless Laws Return for a Final Reading” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/06/10/18738230.php)

This time the ACLU actually came out with a statement against it [“Local ACLU Issues Stong Statement in Opposition to “Stay Away” Ordinance” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/24/18763274.php] HUFF activists Raven Davis and Maya Iverson spent many hours examining the “no need for court” Stay-Away orders of the last year given massively to homeless people in the parks and produced a dense but telling letter [“Stay-Away From Human Rights ! An Activist Examines the Escalating Stay-Away Orders Law” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/25/18763326.php.] And Pleich promised a lawsuit against the law if enacted, even if the local and regional ACLU failed to act (“Time to Step Up and Fight City Hall on “Stay Away” Ordinance” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/22/18763162.php.

In response the Santa Cruz City Council and its attorney-for-life John Barisone, caught with their fingers in the Constitutional cookie jar, have put off a final vote on supersizing the Stay Away orders until November 11th [“Santa Cruz City Council Delays Second Reading of Stay Away Ordinance” at https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/10/28/18763436.php]

However the tightening iron glove beneath the velvet “Public Safety” fist continues to tighten its grip around the throat of the poor outside.  Prison-like conditions are being implemented in the Homeless [Lack of] Services Center with a “security” gates and ID cards the “new normal”.  The rabidly reactionary Deputy police chief Steve Clark is given a long leash by police boss Kevin Vogel as he smears even the mildly liberal City Council candidate Leonie Sherman (who has declined to stand up for an end to the city’s anti-homeless Sleeping Ban).  A homeless recycler reports the imminent closure of the only remaining Recycling Center in Santa Cruz.  Homeless-ophobic locals near the Circles Church at Woodrow and California are moving to petition for restrictive Permit Parking–in a hearing coming up November 17th.  The Circles Church, in response to both right-wing bigotry  and the influx of service-seeking homeless driven out of parks and the downtown, has shut down its Sunday meal, its thrice-weekly warming center (“the Sunrise Hangout Cafe”) and other services.  The Red Church (Cavalary Episcopal) now no longer allows homeless people to sit on their lawn except during the 6-7 PM meal on Monday.

Once prejudice-pleasing election season is over on November 4th, will those who quieted their voices so as not to stir up the homeless-haters, be willing to take more militant action to defend homeless survival camps in the parks, make use of vacant buildings, and take other obvious actions that restore the public space to the community as well as those who live outside?
Keep watching.

 

Homeless Lawsuit against the City of Fresno Ends in Settlement

By Mike Rhodes

In October and November of 2011, the City of Fresno and Caltrans bulldozed homeless encampments in downtown Fresno. Thirty-six lawsuits were filed by the homeless alleging that their property had been taken and destroyed. Those lawsuits were all settled in October 2014.

In October and November of 2011, the City of Fresno and Caltrans bulldozed homeless encampments in downtown Fresno. Thirty-six lawsuits were filed by the homeless alleging that their property had been taken and destroyed. Those lawsuits were all settled in October 2014.

 

The smile on the faces of homeless people as they cashed their checks left no doubt about who was victorious in the lawsuit against the City of Fresno. The lawsuits, filed by 36 homeless people, followed the October and November 2011 bulldozing of homeless encampments in the downtown area.

Angelita Soto was one of the homeless people who filed a lawsuit and received a check in October. Soto had lived in an encampment near E and Santa Clara streets. On the morning of Nov. 7, 2011, city crews arrived at Soto’s shelter. After forcing her out, they searched inside her shelter, removed her chest of drawers, a chair, a bookshelf and other household furnishings. Those items were put on the curb next to the road. Soto watched as a bulldozer drove by, grabbed her furniture and put it into a garbage truck. Next, the bulldozer returned and destroyed her shelter.

As a result of being without shelter and sleeping on the street in November and December, Soto contracted pneumonia. During this time, several homeless women died in the area. Big Sue, a well-known homeless woman, died on the sidewalk in front of the Poverello House. Her shelter had also been destroyed by city workers, and she suffered because of her exposure to the cold.

Central California Legal Services and the Arnold & Porter LLP law firm represented the homeless in this case.

Chris Schneider, executive director of Central California Legal Services, said, “My hope is that the settlement represents the city recognizing that the Kincaid v. City of Fresno case made clear that all residents of Fresno, including the homeless, have constitutional rights, and that if those rights are violated, there will be consequences.

“The city clearly hoped to wear down the plaintiffs and their attorneys through tens of thousands of pages of discovery demands, hundreds of hours of depositions and the passage of time. The city wanted to send a message that it is futile for homeless residents to insist on their rights and to demand dignity. They were unsuccessful in that.”

Homeless people harmed by the city’s bulldozing of the encampments that I talked to said they would use the money to get an apartment, a couple of them will use the money to continue their education and at least one will buy a used car so he can get back and forth to work.

The city’s defense of its actions largely consisted of claims that everything destroyed was trash. Attorney James Betts, who represented the city in this case, attended the 2011 demolitions and inspected many of the shelters before they were destroyed. In video of these “cleanups,” city workers can often be heard saying that homeless people’s property was trash and smelled of urine or feces. City video also documented the destruction of Soto’s property.

The definition of what property is of value and what is trash was a critical factor in the recently settled lawsuit. The Kincaid decision mandated that the city save any property found during these “cleanups” and store it for 90 days. Was the city’s uncertainty about its ability to convince a jury that Soto’s furniture was trash a factor in its willingness to settle? To prevail, the city would have had to convince juries in 30+ trials that no property of any value was destroyed. That is a pretty high bar to clear.

I asked Schneider if there were any surprises in this lawsuit. He said, “I was shocked to find that a number of the city officials believe that the Poverello House, is ‘part of the problem’ of homelessness in Fresno. They basically view the Pov as a magnate for the homeless and think that if the Pov was closed the homeless would magically disappear.

“I was also surprised to find out how adamantly opposed they are to even consider any idea about addressing homelessness other than Mayor [Ashley] Swearengin’s ‘First Steps Home’ program. It seems that city and Housing Authority officials both have an inability to recognize that the housing first approach at its present pace can only help a few dozen individuals per year or they know its limitations and just don’t care about the thousands of people who will continue to be on the streets for decades.”

Paul Alexander is senior counsel with Arnold & Porter and the lead attorney representing the homeless. I asked him the same question. He said, “There were two surprises for most of us on the legal team. The first of these centered on the Renaissance at Santa Clara. This is a project developed by Penstar Corporation and its executives basically using federal money. It houses only 69 homeless residents, but the total cost of this project exceeded $14,000,000. What’s more, of this enormous amount, the Penstar Corporation took $1,000,000 off the top in a ‘consulting fee.’

“It isn’t hard to imagine how much good could really be done for this enormous expenditure of federal money, and how little was actually done. Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. The rich do get richer.

“Second, some of us were surprised that the City of Fresno’s executives testified that making some provision, however small, for the homeless is ‘not our job.’ The city leaves this to others, such as the Penstar executives, while turning its back on far less expensive and more meaningful alternatives such as the Eco Village concept.

“What this means is that, for the most part, the city provides no sanitation facilities, no garbage pickup, no fresh water, not even a porta potty, much less any shelter, for any of its homeless residents. All this does is make the problem worse. Then, the City spends large sums, including Sanitation Department overtime, police supervision, extra heavy machinery and the like, to destroy homeless encampments.

“Fresno can do better, spend less, and over time have a positive impact in reducing homelessness and its impact on the community. This should be the job of city government.”

It is probably not a coincidence that Penstar CEO Tom Richard is a big contributor to Swearengin’s campaign for state controller, giving $6,800 in 2014. Other Penstar executives made significant contributions to Swearengin’s run for mayor in 2012.

The mayor’s Housing First program, which is intended to benefit the homeless, ends up enriching wealthy developers and not surprisingly, some of that money ends up back in Swearengin’s campaign accounts. It is a small world after all.

Since the demolition of the homeless encampments in 2011, city policy has shifted. There is a dedicated Fresno Police Department task force that focuses on preventing the reemergence of groups of homeless people living together in encampments. The police issue citations to homeless people for a wide array of alleged crimes (like having property, which they claim is littering the streets), and they have removed an enormous number of shopping carts from the possession of homeless people.

When an officer in the homeless task force sees a shopping cart without the owner nearby, the city’s Sanitation Department is called, which then confiscates the cart and the property inside it , and takes it to a storage facility. A notice is put up nearby advising the owner how to reclaim the property. Homeless people now can’t go into the Poverello House to get a meal, with their shopping cart outside the gate, without it being confiscated by city employees.

The outcome of this pressure on homeless people in the downtown area is that many of them are moving to other parts of the city. There are now large numbers of homeless people throughout Fresno, but without someplace for them to live, ending homelessness will remain an elusive goal.

Housing First is only able to provide housing for a lucky few; local government has no plan for how to humanely meet the needs of the homeless living on the streets of Fresno, and more people will probably die this winter from a lack of shelter and public services.

A homeless man on Santa Clara Street, near the Poverello House, holds up a handmade sign to express his displeasure with the demolition of homeless people’s shelters.

A homeless man on Santa Clara Street, near the Poverello House, holds up a handmade sign to express his displeasure with the demolition of homeless people’s shelters.

Progressive homeless advocates say that a policy shift toward establishing safe and legal locations for the homeless to live would be a move in the right direction. If those places have drinking water, trash pickup and bathrooms, homeless people could survive and live with some decency.

Alexander, the lead attorney representing the homeless, says the legal team has “learned what we always knew—that litigation is long, difficult and expensive for all concerned. The city was well represented and fought hard. In the end, the city was wise to settle. We would all be better off if this process did not repeat itself. We don’t get paid for bringing this litigation. We do it only when we feel it is absolutely necessary. Who knows—maybe everyone involved can learn some lessons for the future. Hope springs eternal.”

Schneider said, “I would hope that city officials have this time actually learned a lesson and will pursue a proactive approach to addressing homelessness. Such an approach would cost the city a lot less both financially and morally. The city needs to realize that there are plenty of people and organizations in the community ready to work together to find collaborative solutions. We would much prefer that over further lawsuits.”

*****

Mike Rhodes is a frequent contributor to the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

NOTE BY NORSE:  A wealth of articles on the Fresno homeless dating back a decade can be found at http://fresnoalliance.com/wordpress/?p=1313   

 

 

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Attorney Resumes Attack on Sleeping Ban Noon Today at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz

PeaceCamp2010 co-founder and stalwart Ed Frey (pronounced “Fry”) is the only local attorney to have been arrested, then trial and then served a six-month house arrest sentence for solidarity with homeless people here defending the right to sleep.

He continues his persistent and relentless appeal of the absurd and bizarre conviction of “Ground Zero” Gary Johnson.

Judge “Grim Gavel” John Gallagher sentenced Gary to two years in jail for sleeping outside the County Building on a bench with a sign denouncing the (Homeless) Sleeping Ban.

This happened in the closing days of the Occupy Santa Cruz movement in the winter of 2011-2012–though as an independent action. In his appeal of a blocked appeal, Ed raises technical but substantive legal issues which impact all appeals and will be presenting a memo today to lawyers who have been largely indifferent to the issue locally.  (The local ACLU has repeatedly refused to issue any statement on MC 6.36.010a or on the state’s harsh and selectively enforced “no lodging” law PC 647e.)

More at:  https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/01/06/18748816.php

Playing Pattycake with Crime Stats in Santa Cruz

NOTE BY NORSE:  My comments are below.

Ramping up hysteria against “the crime wave” seems to be SC Patch’s Brad Kava’s favorite dish.

I see this kind of hysteria being turned to target homeless people–who are far more often victims of crime.

Even worse  is te offiicially-sanctioned and funded criminal practices such as destruction of homeless property, abusive ticketing for life-sustaining activity, and discriminatory treatment in coffee shops (Coffee Roasting Company, Starbucks, Verve), grocieries (New Leaf Market), other businesses (CruzioWorks), and public facilities (parks, the library, City Hall) not to mention exclusion from the Boardwalk for appearance.

Santa Cruz Crime is Worst in the County

Check the comparison to other county cities here.

Posted by Brad Kava (Editor) , September 18, 2013 at 06:53 PM
patch

Property crimes in Santa Cruz took a big bite in 2012, according to recent FBI statistics for the year. There were 59 cases of theft or burglary for every 1,000 people in the city of 61,000 people.

There were three murders in the city; 433 violent crimes; 34 rapes; 83 robberies; 313 assaults; and 3,585 property crimes.

For comparison in 2012 Watsonville had a violent crime rate of 4.8 known offenses per 1,000 residents. Santa Cruz reported a higher violent crime rate: 7.1. Capitola’s violent crime rate was similar to Watsonville’s, at 4.6 known offenses per 1,000 people.

The FBI releases annual reports here every year. See current Santa Cruz crimes here.

For Brad Kava’s “Crime Chart” go to http://santacruz.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/santa-cruz-crime-is-up-watsonville-is-lower?ncid=newsltuspatc00000010 .

Robert Norse September 19, 2013 at 11:38 AM
As with the hysteria roused by Take Back Santa Cruz and The Clean Team in their destructive and agenda-heavy Needle-Shaking before City Council, this comparison ignores a more crucial analysis as to whether crime has increased from a decade or two ago.

When I spoke with Chief Kevin Vogel at City Council a few months back, he denied this. Now, there may be a certain cosmetic or defensive element involved there, but I’ve not seen stats indicating a rise in crime in Santa Cruz.

Which gos to whether this is all a “crisis”–the claim of the Comstock-Robinson majority on City Council. This mythology justifies the escalating scapegoating attacks on homeless people, the paranoid police state mentality and the absurd and misnamed “Public Safety Task Force”.

The Task Force seems designed to lay the groundwork for the favorite NIMBY/Downtown Association mythology–that Santa Cruz is too welcoming to hippies, travelers, and homeless people. The crime scare mythology (pushed regularly by the Sentinel) seems designed to create the rationale for further (futile and abusive) crackdowns on homeless people.

I’m sorry Brad and SC Patch have bought on to this calculated b.s., which is the kind of right-wing nonsense that feeds a crypto-fascist populist agenda.

It is, of course, the criminal behavior of the rich and the powerful (we can see this most clearly at the national level) that needs to be fought not economic fall-out like survival sleeping bt poor Santa Cruzans driven to the edge.

Brad Kava (Editor) September 19, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Robert…Don’t the numbers speak for themselves? And if you break them down further, you’ll find this isn’t happening to everyone in town, but a lot of the same people are causing the problems, many of them transients. Simple numbers show this. No opinion or spin needed.
Brad Kava (Editor) September 19, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Plus, for all the heat Watsonville gets, it’s numbers are considerably lower than those in Santa Cruz.
Brad Kava (Editor) September 19, 2013 at 08:56 PM
As for paragraphs..requested and waiting. Need to think in short bites.
Andi Sanchez September 19, 2013 at 10:36 PM
It’s beyond “just numbers” and “city council propaganda”. It’s CLEAR that transient crime has increased. We can all still have immense sympathy for the homeless while being incredibly angry at crime. Robert Norse, whose work I admire except when his blinders are on, is misguided here. And “right wing” just because we are concerned about the significant and measurable increase in violent and personal property crime? Robert, that is just so lame. You lost me.
Perhaps Brad can provide us with property crime stats. And not just comparisons with other cities, but with Santa Cruz at points in the past.

It’s true and infuriating that bike theft has increased. And as for “homeless crime”, it, of course, depends on your definition.

If you’re a member of the ludicrous “Task Force on Public Safety”, it looks like sleeping, camping, drug possession, trespass, violating the Downtown Ordinances, etc. are the kind of “crime” you’re interested in using as a pretext to drive homeless people away.

If you have sympathy for the homeless, then look at real crime not defining the homeless as criminals because of their real needs. I notice the property stats are missing even in comparison with other cities.

Also, none of those cities have two college campuses, a massive Beach Boardwalk, and a status as County Seat to contend with. Minor details, of course. We don’t want to interrupt the “War on Crime” narrative, now do we?

My sarcasm is directed at Brad Kava not at Andi Sanchez, incidentally. Kava’s been playing police PR sock puppet for some time. Sorry, Brad, but it’s true.

A Lawsuit Against the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center

NOTE BY NORSE:  It’s ironic that it would be a Security Guard with a racial angle who exposes some of the abuses at the Homeless (Lack of) Services Center, which is currently  under heavy attack (for generally the wrong reasons) by right-wing Take Back Santa Cruz NIMBY’s.  Attempts to get fair policies for dealing with disabled people last year via then-Mayor and former HLOSC Board of Directors member Don Lane and Executive Director Monica Martinez failed to get a real hearing much less a solution.
Martinez and her bunch out there have provided testimony that helped convict homeless activists who protested the Sleeping Ban in 2010 (by falsely claiming there was “room” at the Paul Lee Loft and the River St. Shelter when the waiting list was weeks long).  They’ve resisted providing documentation that homeless people are on the Waiting List so they can present such evidence to the police to encourage no ticketing (though police then use other laws in their relentless drive to “end homelessness in Santa Cruz” (by driving homeless people out of the city and county).
Still the upchuck of vitriol and venom in the comments section following is an example of the toxic fuel that’s firing up hatred in town.  See
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_24132950/security-guard-alleges-harassment-at-homeless-services-center?source=rss where I also leave a long comment.

Security guard alleges harassment at Homeless Services Center in Santa Cruz

By Stephen Baxter

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   09/19/2013 12:25:34 PM PDT
Click photo to enlarge

Jeremy Miller is suing the Homeless Services Center for mistreatment while he… ( Shmuel Thaler )

SANTA CRUZ — A former security guard at the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center sued the center this week, alleging that he was harassed by its homeless clients, and wrongfully fired.

 

The lawsuit describes a “hostile work environment” at the center at 115 Coral St., where he was taunted with racial slurs by homeless people who ate and slept there.

“They have 101 policies and one of them needs to be to protect their employees from harassment,” said Eric Nelson, an attorney representing Jeremy Miller, the former employee.

“They could have helped their employee and they should have offered training other than ‘Just take it on the chin.’”

Miller, 32, also contends that the center did not pay him overtime or provide him proper meal breaks and work breaks. He is seeking money in the suit, but his attorneys said have not specified the amount.

A lawyer for the Homeless Services Center acknowledged Wednesday that Miller sometimes was called racial slurs by homeless clients — but he said there were far fewer instances than the daily problems Miller claimed.

The lawsuit really started with Miller’s firing, said Tom Griffin, an attorney for the center.

“It’s a very challenging group of individuals to work with,” he said of the homeless clients. “All of the people running the program have been exposed to hostile and verbal (abuse) instances in the course of their work,” he said.

“The Homeless Services Center takes their responsibilities to the community, their clients and their employees really seriously. They’re striving to do a better job with limited resources in all of those areas,” Griffin said.

Miller has lived in Santa Cruz for about 20 years and has been homeless himself. He received services as a client at the Homeless Services Center in 2011, which is where center staff got to know him.

The center provides two daily meals, showers, a mail room and beds for about 110 homeless people as well as other services on its campus. It is funded privately and also receives money from the state, Santa Cruz County and the city of Santa Cruz.

Miller volunteered there from July 2011 to March 2012, when he was hired as a campus supervisor.
 

 

WORKING CONDITIONS

 

A First Alarm guard often patrols outside the property, but Miller’s job as campus supervisor essentially was to patrol the lot and make sure there were no fights or illegal drug use. He wore a necklace badge and clothes similar to a mechanic — as he described it — in part because homeless clients often don’t respond well to uniformed guards.

Miller, who is black, said he was threatened several times and called the “N-word” when he tried to enforce the rules, Nelson said. He endured daily harassment and the homeless clients sometimes spit on him, pushed him and punched him, according to the lawsuit.

The threats included death threats to Miller and his family, the suit contends.

Miller said he did not receive training to deal with the center’s clients, “many of whom had serious mental disorders,” the complaint states. At least one other employee witnessed the threats — and was deposed by attorneys during settlement talks with Miller this month.

When Miller asked other staff members if he was qualified for the job, another staff member allegedly asked him, “Do you know how to take a punch?”
Griffin, an attorney for the Homeless Services Center, acknowledged it’s a difficult place to work.

“You’re talking about a group of individuals, some of which are confrontational, abusive and under the influence of a variety of intoxicants. But that’s our clientele,” Griffin said.

Because Miller had been homeless and received services at the center, the staff who hired him “were looking for a win-win situation,” Griffin said. “It turned out not to be a good fit.”

In part because Miller had been homeless and knew some of the clients, he was not universally respected in his new role.

“You have to separate yourself from people and maintain a level of professionalism,” Griffin said. Miller was unable to that, he said.

Miller’s lawsuit contends that none of the staff backed him up when he tried to enforce the rules, and that dynamic “emboldened” the homeless clients to harass him, Miller’s attorney said.
 

 

LAID OFF

 

The problems continued until July Fourth, when Miller was laid off ostensibly because the job description changed and he was no longer qualified. Miller’s attorneys contend that he was fired.

“Rather than addressing the harassment, (Homeless Services Center leaders) terminated Mr. Miller, thereby furthering the discrimination and retaliating against Mr. Miller based on his race,” according to the complaint.

Miller subsequently became homeless again, and returned to the center to eat a free breakfast on July 30.

“It was extremely humbling and humiliating for him to go back for breakfast,” his attorney said.

That day, a staff member of the center came up to Miller and asked him, “What the (expletive) are you doing here? Get the (expletive) out of here,” according to the lawsuit.

Griffin said that since then, the center’s leaders have apologized and allowed him to return for meals.

The center’s leaders also hired a new supervisor who has training as a security guard, Griffin said.

Claudia Brown, board president of the Homeless Services Center, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Miller’s attorneys said they expect a response from the center’s attorneys in the coming weeks.

“I think the Homeless Services Center has recognized the importance of having a certain kind of personality — a certain skill set — to defuse and not escalate certain kinds of behaviors,” said Griffin.

“Miller didn’t have those skills and couldn’t effectively deal with them. They put some new requirements of the job to the person who comes in.”