PRESS RELEASE: National Report Finds That L.A. is the Meanest City

Criminalization report final embargoed

For Immediate Release


Becky Dennison, Los Angeles Community Action Network, 213-840-4664

Pete White, Los Angeles Community Action Network, 213-434-1594

Casey Horan, Lamp Community, 323-252-0803

Anat Rubin, Lamp Community, 818-645-7326

Skid Row Policing Earns Los Angeles the #1 Spot

on National “Meanest Cities” List

July 14, 2009.  Los Angeles’ criminalization of homelessness and poverty is the most egregious in the country, according to a report released today by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities presents the results of research regarding laws and practices in 273 cities across the country.  The report cites the so-called “Safer Cities Initiative,” a discriminatory police crackdown that has trapped tens of thousands of poor, homeless and disabled residents in the criminal justice system, as the primary factor in the decision to grant Los Angeles the dubious honor of #1 Meanest City. A previous report, released in January 2006 before the Initiative began, ranked Los Angeles the 18th meanest city.

The Safer Cities Initiative crackdown that pushed Los Angeles to the top brought more than 100 extra officers to a 50-square block area with relatively low rates of serious or violent crime. In the first two years of the Initiative, these officers made more than 750 arrests each month, routinely escalating charges, in a community that’s home to just 13,000 people. They have also handed out more than 1,000 citations each month for “crimes” such as crossing the street “against a flashing red hand.” When a poor or homeless Skid Row resident can’t pay the fine, the citation turns to warrant and leads to arrest.

The report also cites the racial disparities in Skid Row enforcement and escalating police brutality resulting from the initiative, as well as the city’s lack of housing and services. The city spends $6 million each year on the additional police officers on Skid Row, about equal to the amount it “invests” in homeless services for the entire year.

This report, placing Los Angeles at the bottom of the nation in constructive and effective approaches to homelessness, comes on the heels of a United Nations report released last month in which UN Expert on Racism, Mr. Githu Muigai, condemned the disparate law enforcement efforts against African American homeless persons in Los Angeles’ Skid Row.

Homes Not handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities


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