Officer arrests homeless person
A San Diego police officer arrests a person during an enforcement sweep of sidewalks on Commercial Street in San Diego. (Zoë Meyers/inewsource)

Cody Dulaney and Jake Harper | inewsource

San Diego police continue citing and arresting unsheltered homeless people for blocking sidewalks and sleeping where they shouldn’t, but these cases continue to go nowhere. 

This summer, inewsource published a series of investigations that found a dramatic spike in arrests, revealed police and city officials violating court orders, and highlighted a disconnect between the mayor and city attorney about how best to handle people living on the sidewalk.

Police data recently obtained by inewsource shows new highs since the start of the pandemic — at least 106 arrests so far this year, compared to just 32 arrests in all of 2021. But the San Diego city attorney’s office still declines to prosecute most of these arrests, and the office still hasn’t secured a single conviction in any of the cases it has pursued.

In a statement, a spokesperson for City Attorney Mara Elliott said the office rejects cases when it cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has occurred. 

“While our office prosecutes violations of specific laws,” spokesman Richard Jackoway said in an email, “the underlying issues pertaining to homelessness need to be addressed and are most effectively addressed outside the criminal justice system.”

A city spokesperson said residents complain daily about people in homeless encampments breaking the law or blocking paths of travel, making it dangerous traveling to school and work.

“How the city attorney chooses to handle the crimes referred to her office is her prerogative,” spokesperson Ashley Bailey said in an email, “however, while low-level crimes may go unprosecuted, that does not mean the city should turn a blind eye to them.”

Read the full article on inewsource.org.

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Ellen Bullock