On the heels of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Bowman sending a letter to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Friday outlining the unsafe conditions at the courthouse because of so many homeless vagrants around the courthouse, and imploring the Mayor for help, Sacramento District Attorney Thien Ho sent a letter of his own to District 4 Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela.
Judge Bowman said courthouse security have had to remove the homeless drug addicts and mentally ill from the courthouse daily, and remove feces, other junk and waste. KFBK radio reported on Friday the judge said employees, attorneys, jurors, trial witnesses and the public at the County Courthouse are unsafe because of the homeless yelling at them, assaulting, confronting, accosting and intimidating them, and are even forced to witness public sex acts – all taking place outside of the courthouse.
Judge Bowman said in his letter:
“On behalf of the Court, the thousands of people who use our services and our 416 downtown employees, I respectfully request the Sacramento Police Department increase its presence near our downtown court locations, jury and employee parking lots, and that code violations be enforced,” wrote Bowman. “More importantly, it is my hope that the burgeoning unsheltered population surrounding the Court be connected with the services and support they so desperately need.”
Sacramento has provided travel trailers (RV quality) for Sacramento’s Homeless drug-addicted transients to live in, tiny homes, “safe” camping areas, renovated motels, but the population has only grown.
In the heart of downtown where the courthouse is, even the metered parking places have been taken over by homeless camping attaching tents to the meters. Metered parking places are revenue for the city.
Sidewalks at the courthouse and around the entire Tsakopoulos Library are often wall-to-wall drug addled homeless vagrants, urinating, defecating, having sex, wandering around in a drug haze, and “camping.”
In his letter, District Attorney Ho said:
“As the representative of District 4, I respectfully request your immediate assistance to address critical public safety concerns surrounding the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse by formally requesting the consistent enforcement of city code and ordinance violations. Unfortunately, significant public safety concerns are affecting the public, District Attorney employees, jurors called to fulfill their civic duty, defendants appearing on their cases, and victims of crime seeking justice.”
KCRA 3 reported Mayor Steinberg’s office released a statement in response to Judge Bowman’s letter.
“The presiding judge and the district attorney are right. I’m working with the City Manager to open up the Miller Park Safe Camping no later than two weeks from now. The first priority will be to address the encampments surrounding the DA’s office and the courthouse. Those areas will be cleaned,” the mayor’s office said.
Ah. Here we go again with Miller Park – a once lovely public park along the Sacramento to River the Mayor has given over to the homeless. There is nothing “safe” about this homeless encampment.
The Globe has reported frequently on Sacramento’s growing homeless population and the ridiculous “solutions” the Mayor and city have come up with, mostly accommodating the homeless, rather than providing shelters with rules and requiring treatment.
The Mayor gave the public park on the Sacramento River, next to a boat ramp, away to the homeless transients, who have rendered it unsafe, noxious, toxic and unusable for the city residents who pay taxes to sustain it.
DA Ho continued:
“People are entitled to the fundamental right of fair and equal access to justice. But to obtain justice, members of our community require unfettered access to the Courthouse and the District Attorney’s Office without threats to their safety or well-being. Unfortunately, this is not the experience for those having to navigate the city blocks surrounding the courthouse. Every day, people encounter growing unhoused encampments with open air drug use and dealing, tents blocking sidewalk access, unhoused individuals engaged in erratic and violent behavior – all within the three-block area that encompasses the Courthouse, the District Attorney’s Office, and Sacramento City Hall.
“In the past 12 months, my office documented 86 incidents in and around the District Attorney’sOfficeofteninvolvingunhousedindividuals. Forexample:whilewalkingbackfrom court, a young deputy district attorney was accosted and struck in the head by an unhoused individual; while returning from a court run to file documents, a female D.A. employee received threats and hateful racial slurs from an unhoused man regarding the Hijab she wore; a fire was recently set in a nearby alleyway; a man exposed his genitalia across the street from the office; a rock was thrown through the window of the G Street Cafe; a man entered the lobby of the D.A.’s Office with a hammer; and encampments are growing in and near the area parking lots. These incidents do not include our daily exposure to feces, urine, broken furniture and trash littering the area. Some sidewalks are inaccessible as rows of tents and other items make walking impossible, thus forcing pedestrians into our busy streets. It is a sad state of affairs when citizens choose to step out into the street over the dangers lurking on our city sidewalks.”
District Attorney Ho is describing most of downtown Sacramento.
The Mayor’s conciliatory response is appreciated but downtown Sacramento, under his watch, has become dangerous and parts of it look like impoverished Bangladesh.
The little gem in DA Ho’s letter dispells how Martin v. City of Boise has been incorrectly used by city officials to do nothing with homeless. DA Ho explains:
“When these issues in the downtown area have been raised by members of the public, some in elected positions point the finger of responsibility to others or misinterpret legal precedent by citing Martin v. City of Boise, 902 F.3d 1031 (9th Cir. 2018), as an excuse not to enforce the law or delay enforcement of city ordinances and codes while waiting for increased shelter beds. However, Martin does not suggest that unsheltered individuals are immunized from law enforcement in any capacity, nor does it allow for the City to ignore the problems in a way that creates a public nuisance.”
“Just this year, a Court in Arizona ruled the City of Phoenix “created, maintained, and/or failed to abate a public nuisance” in an area called “The Zone” for refusing to enforce laws prohibiting loitering, obstruction of streets and sidewalks to remove homelessencampmentsthathadtakenoverseveralcityblocksinthedowntownarea. (Freddy Brown, et al. v. City ofPhoenix (2023) Under Advisement Ruling filed March 27, 2023).
Additionally, just this month, the City of Portland reached a tentative settlement brought by people with disabilities who argued homeless tents and encampments prevented them from accessing the city sidewalks. The Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in federal court and argued the City violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to “maintain its sidewalks clear of debris and tent encampments.” (Tozer v. City ofPortland, 3:22-CV-01336 (U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon)).”
DA Ho goes on to say his office has a duty to prosecute offenses in violation of California’s criminal statutes, and he even has entire units dedicated to prosecuting misdemeanor and felony cases. “But our constitutional authority is limited. We can only prosecute the cases presented to us by law enforcement after an individual is cited or arrested. In non-violent offenses, our office strives to address the underlying drug addiction and mental health issues that can accompany homelessness. But we cannot act alone.”
Indeed. Sacramento’s elected officials have been not only impotent but neglectful in dealing with the growing homeless vagrant population and commensurate crimes, violence, and drug dealing, putting the safety of Sacramento citizens in jeopardy.
DA Ho summarized this eloquently:
“The responsibility to enforce and prosecute Sacramento City Ordinances and Code violations rests squarely upon the City of Sacramento and the City Attorney’s Office. The proliferation of encampments on downtown streets has closed businesses, endangered people’s safety and is slamming the door of justice on those that need it most. Our Sacramento County residents do not want to come downtown to patronize our businesses and perform the duties we need and require them to fulfill.”
DA Ho’s letter:DA Request for Consistent Enforcement of City Code and Ordinance Violations
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