In L.A., a $35 ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk can turn into $238 in total charges. We are L.A. Times reporters who spent a year investigating police enforcement against homeless people – ask us anything.
While politicians were speaking out against criminalizing homelessness, arrests of homeless people in L.A. rose 31% over six years. And the No. 1 charge by far was failing to pay a ticket or show up in court. Police ticket homeless people for so-called “quality of life” offenses like blocking the sidewalk or public urination (in places where there are no bathrooms). The tickets can carry penalties of $200 to $300, which is more than homeless people can pay. (This chart shows how a $35 ticket for sleeping on the sidewalk can become $238 in total charges.) These tickets and fines pile up, and then homeless people are jailed on warrants. Most of them spend just a day or two in jail, but their court records make it harder to get jobs and housing – prolonging their homelessness.
Our investigation included an analysis of jail bookings provided by the LAPD from 2011-2016. We published that information (with names redacted) alongside the computer code that generated the analysis.
(Read our investigation: Huge increase in arrests of homeless in L.A. — but mostly for minor offenses)
UPDATE: Thanks for joining us, everyone! That's all for now. We're continuing to report on the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles – stay tuned.