Wednesday, September 17, 2003

New signs shoo homeless


Delay kept police from enforcing law

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
Phillip Garcia, who is homeless and says he lives under a nearby overpass, walks past a "No Trespassing" sign posted under the bridge from downtown to Columbia Parkway at Pete Rose Way and Mehring Way. The city posted the signs Tuesday under the bridges.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
DOWNTOWN - The only reason Cincinnati police haven't evicted homeless people camping out under downtown freeway bridges is because the city sign-printing shop was two months behind in printing "No Trespassing" signs, a police captain told City Council Tuesday.

Capt. James Whalen's testimony had an almost instant effect: Incredulous council members put pressure on the city manager, and city crews were busy installing 11 of the new signs Tuesday night.

With the signs in place, police can begin enforcing the trespassing laws on state property. Whalen said officers would give homeless people who are clearly camping out - not just loitering or resting - 72 hours to leave.

At the same time, police will notify the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless so that social workers have an opportunity to help the displaced people.

Mayor Charlie Luken first urged a crackdown on the encampments in July. Since then, disputes with state officials and a federal lawsuit have slowed the city's efforts to clean out the most visible camps.

It was also in July that the police department first asked the city's sign shop to print the "No Trespassing" signs, Whalen said. For legal reasons, police are reluctant to enforce the trespassing law unless the property is posted. A spokeswoman in the city manager's office said Tuesday that she did not know why there was such a backlog in the sign shop.

"I'm just a little aggravated that we can't get signs made and put up, when you can go to Home Depot and get a sign," said Councilman Chris Monzel.

But that's exactly what the city did two months ago, Whalen said. The homeless people quickly tore them down.

The new signs are bolted to the bridge supports.

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E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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