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S.C. Chief: Homelessness Is Not a Crime

August 29, 2013  | 

The Columbia (S.C.) Police chief is pushing back on a City Council plan to divert homeless people from the city center, telling The State that "homelessness is not a crime."

Interim Chief Ruben Santiago has told city officials that officers can't transport homeless adults to the riverfront shelter nor can police tell them they would be charged with a nuisance offense if they refuse.

Councilman Cameron Runyan, who proposed assigning officers to enforce public nuisance offenses, criticized the chief Monday. "Santiago is the one who said in the (Aug. 5 City Hall) meeting that they could transport people," he said.

Chief Santiago said his officers "have to have the legal right" to question of take anyone into custody.


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Capt. Crunch @ 9/2/2013 1:04 PM

Gee I thought a homeless person was a person who lost their home and I agree this is not a crime. But if you are a vagrant and cause any type of public nuisance then I feel you are committing a crime and you should be dealt with by the police. If Chief Santiago, feels sorry for the vagrants maybe he should let them camp out on in the back yard of his home this way the vagrants will have a home and not be homeless.

Marco @ 9/4/2013 10:52 AM

I read the whole article in The State. Nowhere in there does it say the chief is refusing to enforce the law. He is right. Homelessness is not a crime, and to involuntarily take someone where they do not wish to go false arrest at the low end, up to abduction. If someone commits a crime, that is dealt with separately. The crux of the article seems to be where funding for the 9 officers to patrol the area will come from, since it is yet to be budgeted.

Ima Leprechaun @ 9/4/2013 4:56 PM

Perhaps just a little creative reading in Federal Case Law might help this Chief. These types of ordinances were ruled civil rights violations by the US Supreme Court way back in the early 1970's. One good civil rights law suit could cost that city millions.

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