By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the City of Denver to reverse a policy where the possessions of homeless people are being taken in the name of evidence for a crime. The crime is Denver’s urban camping ban.
“Just from a human perspective, to take blankets away from people when it’s freezing outside and they have nowhere else to go is simply cruel,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the Executive Director of ACLU Colorado.
The ACLU chapter wrote a letter to the mayor of Denver and several other high-ranking city officials after social media videos showed police ticketing homeless people and confiscating blankets and tents. One video was streamed on Facebook and the other was produced by the citizen journalism group Unicorn Riot.
LINK: ACLU of Colorado
One video an officer can be seen giving a homeless man a ticket and saying, “Your tent is going to be taken as evidence. It’s evidence of illegal camping. It’s evidence of a crime.”
“We think the urban camping ban should be repealed or at least suspended for the winter months. A lot of people are really outraged by these videos showing police taking blankets away from people who need them,” Woodliff-Stanley said. “I think it’s time for city leaders to step up and say what they’re going to do to really address homelessness and not use a policing first model as the only way to address it.”
The videos are from Nov. 28-29 when low temperatures were around 20 degrees.
“It doesn’t do anything to solve the problem. The city needs to look at actual issues of housing and services,” Woodliff-Stanley said.
A spokeswoman for the mayor, Amber Miller, told CBS 4 in a statement, “As a city, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to protect the lives of our residents. Camping outside — especially in sub-zero temperatures — is life-threatening and we do not want to see any lives lost on the streets when there are safe, warm places available for people to sleep at night. Every effort that we make is to connect people with safe places to sleep and services they need to achieve self-sufficiency.”
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.