BRPD taking a stand against proposal to criminalize homeless camps
BATON ROUGE - Metro Council members are still trying to figure out if they want to ban homelessness encampments in public areas, and key agencies are joining the conversation, namely the Baton Rouge Police Department.
“It's also alarming to me BRPD essentially says, 'pass your ordinance but there's no way to enforce it,' and that's exactly what I got from that representative,” Councilwoman Jennifer Racca said.
Multiple people spoke on the proposal to amend the current city ordinance to make it illegal to live in a public area.
“There are homeless people out there and then there are street people. Homeless people want to be off the street. Street people choose to be on the street. That's why this ordinance is needed,” one person said during public comment.
“I come at this from a cost perspective. Ordinances like this, and a lot of research shows, ends up costing municipalities a lot of money to make that kind of investment on a policy that puts people in jail ultimately. Wouldn't it make more sense to just think of housing solutions?” asked another person.
Also speaking out was a representative with BRPD.
“I’m here to relay Chief Murphy Paul's position relative to this ordinance. When you issue a homeless person a summons, you have to put an address. Obviously, they don't have an address. So there's no way to contact them if they don't show up in court,” Sgt. Ping Nitchin explained.
And you can't just put them in jail.
“The sheriff's office won't take non-violent offenders, so therefore they won't take them in a parish prison,” Nitchin said.
Ultimately, they argued the ordinance couldn't be enforced.
“You know they won't logically have the money to pay the fines,” Nitchin said.
Two council members came up with the proposal, and it's slated to go to a vote next month.
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