In the benighted village of Norristown, Pennsylvania, landlords are "encouraged" to evict tenants who call the police repeatedly, and are fined if someone requests the police at a property three times in four months.
And thus it almost happened to a Ms. Lakisha Briggs in May, 2012. In tragic irony, she was not even the one who called the police the third time she was threatened because, despite having a three year old daughter in harm's way
...she knew that she could not call the police for help without risking eviction.It was family and a unknown neighbor who called after
Briggs'... abuser had "chased Ms. Briggs down the alley with a brick and followed her to her house, where he attacked her."The police and the town (but fortunately not a judge) were bent on enforcing a law rather than using common sense.
"You are on three strikes. We're gonna have your landlord evict you," officers told Briggs after apprehending her ex-boyfriend, according to the lawsuit. After a judge refused to force Briggs out of her home, Norristown revoked her landlord's license and tried to evict her.
The ACLU eventually came to Ms. Briggs' assistance and filed suit, stopping the eviction and actually compelled Norristown to repeal the odious ordinance. Good show, ACLU! So what did the good burghers do then?
...two weeks later, the city passed a nearly identical law.The ACLU is challenging this latest abomination on First Amendment grounds, violations of the Violence Against Woman's Act, and Fair Housing Act prohibitions against discrimination on the basis of sex. Unfortunately, Norristown is not the only bad apple in the bushel.
As the ACLU notes, Norristown is not the only city with "nuisance ordinances" or "crime free ordinances" that suppress the rights of domestic violence victims.Here's a writeup on problems with Milwaukee's Chronic Nuisance Ordinance.
Professors from Harvard and Columbia looked at similar laws in Milwaukee, finding that "Nearly a third of all nuisance citations were generated by domestic violence."
The study, published in the American Sociological Review, also found that "properties in black neighborhoods disproportionately received citations, and those located in more integrated black neighborhoods had the highest likelihood of being deemed nuisances."
The City of Milwaukee's Chronic Nuisance Ordinance (80-10) is a thorn in the side of many landlords. Essentially the ordinance says that if your property generates more than 3 calls for police service for "nuisance activities" within a 30 day period that the city will charge you for the costs associated with abating the alleged nuisance.Note that this doesn't only apply if someone is convicted of some illegal activity three times. It'S just if the police arrive because of a complaint, valid or not, about some kind of activity that may or may not in fact be illegal.
Nuisance activities include the following: harassment, disorderly conduct, battery, indecent exposure, prostitution, littering, theft, possession, manufacture or delivery of drugs, gambling, illegal possession of firearms, keeping a dangerous animal, trespass to land, conspiracy to commit a crime, discharge of a firearm, excessive noise, loitering, public drinking, sale of liquor, possession of counterfeit items, possession or selling of drug paraphenalia, selling or giving tobacco products to children, misuse of emergency telephone numbers, harboring an animal that causes a disturbance, illegal use or sale of fireworks, and truancy.
In summary, a nuisance activity is pretty much anything and everything you can think of.
This (not so) petty harassment of "undesirables" goes along with the (not so) petty harassment of homeless people I wrote about yesterday.
It is especially pernicious when it discourages people from being able to call for protection against violence as is the case here, and is also the case with undocumented immigrants (and their documented kin) afraid to interact with the police.
Lakisha Briggs seeks temporary immunity from Norristown's "disorderly behavior" ordinance, damages, legal fees and a declaratory judgment deeming the ordinance unconstitutional.Damn straight.