Sweeps are not the answer.
This past Friday on the Venice Boardwalk LAPD and the Bureau of Sanitation completed their weekly routine of abusing and robbing unhoused people. These “sweeps” happen all over the city of Los Angeles, multiple times every day, and provide damning insight into how this supposedly progressive city treats its most vulnerable members.
L.A.’s principal policy towards the unhoused is criminalization and incarceration. The city spends $1.5 billion on policing each year, but only $65 million on housing and community investment. In 2016 the LAPD made 14,000 arrests of homeless individuals, making up 1/6th of all arrests in the city.
Here are just two of the most egregious events I saw on Friday while I was out with our DSA-LA StreetWatch Westside team. Both involve the cops harassing and refusing to allow individuals to leave with their property. Both individuals had valuable items taken from them.
This woman (see photos above and below), whose name I didn’t get, was sitting with her belongings when the cops showed up. She had all of her things pretty neatly compiled in two bundles, one wrapped up in a blue tarp and one stacked on a wheelbarrow, both easily movable.
The cops set up caution tape around the perimeter of the alleyway she was in and refused to let her leave with her property. Instead, they told her, she could only keep what she could fit into a 60-gallon clear trashbag (about the size of a big suitcase). They literally brought her wheelbarrow back into the taped-off area so they could throw out her things (see photo immediately above).
They took everything that couldn’t fit in a 60-gallon bag, including her wheelbarrow. This included her bedding and toys for her dog.
“So you’re gonna rob me? You’re taking my property.” — William Whitaker (pictures below)
Towards the end of the sweep, I saw a similar torment brought upon William Whitaker, an elderly man at least 70 years old.
Like the woman above, his property was both efficiently organized and mobile. Again, instead of allowing him to leave with all his belongings, the cops told him he had to fit everything into a 60-gallon bag.
A few minutes later, after William is unable to get any leeway from the LAPD, sanitation starts throwing out his things.