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Homeless arrests are on the rise, mostly for failing to pay tickets




A homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street near the Los Angeles Mission on December 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
A homeless woman sleeps on a pile of belongings on the street near the Los Angeles Mission on December 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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There’s been a "huge increase" in homeless arrests in L.A. over the past several years, despite a decrease in overall arrests in the city. That's according to a new report from the Los Angeles Times.

Most of the arrests stem from minor violations of L.A.’s "quality-of-life" laws, which restrict the homeless from sleeping on sidewalks, pitching tents during specific hours or keeping over-sized storage on the streets.

Breaking any of these codes can lead to a citation, and failure to pay that citation and appear in court can lead to an arrest warrant. The Times analyzed L.A. Police Department jail bookings from 2011 and 2016 and found that failure to appear in court for an unpaid ticket was the main reason for the uptick in homeless arrests, which increased 31 percent over six years.

The base penalty for sleeping on an L.A. sidewalk is $35, but additional fees rack up the total fine to $238, creating a revolving door of debt and jail time for the homeless. As a result, a number of judges in the state have chosen to cancel these debts and arrest warrants.

Gale Holland covers homelessness and poverty for the L.A. Times. She spoke with Take Two about her reporting.

"The police feel that they are constantly called in with complaints about these encampments, that the encampments have been linked to a rise in crime, although we didn't see that in the arrest statistics," Holland said. "Officials say they don't want to criminalize people, but I haven't heard a robust discussion of this at city hall."

We reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment but did not receive a response at the time of this interview.