Juneau Assembly bans homeless from sleeping downtown

first_imgHomeless resident Catherine Duncan, far left, appeals to the Juneau Assembly not to pass a camping ordinance that would ban homeless from sleeping downtown on Feb. 13, 2017. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)A divided Juneau Assembly passed a controversial anti-camping ordinance Feb. 13 to ban homeless people from sleeping near downtown businesses.Listen nowIn the end, the controversial ordinance passed by a single vote. It will allow police to cite anyone caught sleeping on private property in the downtown core between midnight and 7 a.m.The ordinance passed in a 5-4 vote. Supporters were: Mayor Ken Koelsch, Jerry Nankervis, Debbie White, Mary Becker and Beth Weldon. Opposed were: Norton Gregory, Jesse Kiehl, Loren Jones and Maria Gladziszewski.Many downtown merchants have complained of people using shuttered storefronts to shelter from the cold. Those concerns were heard by a majority of the Assembly.“This isn’t about the people who sleep on the sidewalk. This isn’t about people in Marine Park,” Assembly member Debbie White said. “This is about people who have invested in our downtown community, who employ our neighbors.”Assembly member Jerry Nankervis echoed that it was a matter of rights of business owners.“We are trying to reinforce — at least in my mind — that I believe people have private property rights,” Nankervis said, “and just because you’re homeless doesn’t supersede somebody else’s private property rights.”Juneau Police Chief Bryce Johnson said the ordinance would be a tool “which would give us the option of either writing a ticket or taking someone to jail for disorderly conduct.”It takes effect in mid-April when the city-run Thane Campground reopens.Opposition came from four Assembly members including Norton Gregory, who noted that many homeless people suffer from substance abuse and mental illness.“Those are the discussions that I wish we were having tonight and we were talking about rather than passing an ordinance about pushing these people out of the downtown area,” Gregory said.Assemblyman Jesse Kiehl disputed the police chief’s argument it would improve overall public safety.“Are people better off now in doorways? You bet they are,” Kiehl said. “Because those abandoned mine buildings above Gastineau Avenue are scary places and there are no lights and (the Juneau Police Department) doesn’t drive by and check.”Merchants who had complained that homeless people had harassed and intimidated their customers and employees were pleased with the vote.“I personally think this will help and I hope it’s the beginning of a longer process to address all the issues of the homeless in downtown Juneau,” Eric Forst, owner of the downtown Red Dog Saloon, said.Homeless residents reacted with dismay.“I’m scared of what’s going to happen,” Lisa Williams, 27, said after the vote. “I don’t know where I’m going to go and I’m afraid to go up to the woods. I have no idea what it’s going to mean for me.”The ordinance began as an initiative by Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch, who proposed it after fielding complaints from merchants in December.“I asked for the no camping ordinance to be drafted and introduced for action,” Koelsch said in prepared remarks. “I accept full responsibility. It speaks to a core value of mine regarding respect of property of others.”The ACLU of Alaska has cautioned the city that a blanket ban on homeless people downtown would be unconstitutional.Courts have ruled homelessness can’t be criminalized when the homeless population exceeds shelter space available.For that reason City Attorney Amy Mead said this ordinance was drafted narrowly to only apply to private property.So what if the homeless campers move to a public place like Juneau’s Marine Park?“My advice to (the Juneau Police Department) is that it would be potentially unconstitutional to enforce the camping ordinance against those people at that time,” the city attorney said in a brief interview.The argument over this ordinance may be over.But both sides here agree that the quandary over Juneau’s homeless problem continues.last_img read more

Two thieves arrested in restaurant after failed attempt to blend in

first_imgPlaya del Carmen, Q.R. — Armed robbers who reportadly assaulted two people were arrested in a seafood restaurant in Playa del Camen.Police say that at around 1:00 p.m. Friday, two men were arrested for an assault that was reported to 911. As police neared the Ejidal neighborhood of the assault, the pair fled in a car.According to preliminary data, emergency number 911 reported an assault in process on the crossing of Juarez and 55 Avenues, for which police intervention was immediately requested. The 911 dispatcher was able to give a description of the alleged criminals and the car in which they fled.When the agents arrived at the scene, witnesses provided them with the physical characteristics of the assailants, so police set up an operation for Ejidal, finding the white Nissan Tsuru car abandoned on a nearby street.Moments later, 911 updated police that the assailants entered a seafood restaurant several blocks from where they were posted. Police responded to the call and after entering the restaurant, managed to locate the two men who tried to hide by mixing in with local diners.Restaurant patrons were surprised to witness the take down. The two men were arrested and presented to the Solidarity Public Security Directorate for the corresponding procedures.Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)last_img read more