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Supreme Court gives cities more power to arrest homeless

Tucson says ruling validates its current enforcement
Posted at 8:07 AM, Jul 02, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Cities have more authority to fine and arrest homeless people because of a Supreme Court ruling that came out Friday.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled cities can make it illegal to sleep on public property; but the question is, how will the City of Tucson apply that ruling to homeless issues here?

We were talking about homeless challenges with the head of the Tucson Crime Free Coalition when a large group noticed our camera and rushed out of a culvert under Oracle Road.

Soon after the group scattered Kevin Daily said, “I can’t even imagine the living conditions. If I go in there and look at the sanitary conditions are they living in their feces in there. Is there urine?”

Daily says so many homeless people refuse shelter and drug and mental health treatment that he hopes if a homeless person is breaking the law, the City of Tucson will use the Supreme Court ruling to order them into treatment.

“We're not interested in criminalizing homelessness. That's not it. It's people that are committing crimes to support their drug addiction. That's what we're all feeling unsafe about. But if we address just that alone, if we address people that are committing crimes, to face their drug addiction, we could probably make a lot of progress and we'll learn so much.”

Part of that could be through the new transition center at the Pima County Jail. It connects people to mental health and drug treatment as they come out of the jail.

Tucson’s City attorney Mike Rankin says his office is reviewing the Supreme Court decision but can already conclude it allows the city to keep doing what it’s doing now.

His statement says in part,

"... Today’s Supreme Court decision reinforces the validity of the Tucson’s Homeless Encampment Protocol, under which the City’s enforcement efforts and deployment of resources to eliminate unlawful encampments are prioritized based upon the encampment’s impact on public health and safety. I expect that this approach will continue now that the Supreme Court has confirmed our authority to enforce our local ordinances."