Supreme Court photo by 'Marielam1,' Creative commons license 4.0

So it turns out the Tampa, Florida, police department has been encouraging landlords to evict their [usually Black] tenants, in the name of "crime prevention."

Because, as we all know, making people homeless is a great way to reduce crime.

Oh wait, it's not? We, in fact, live in a country with a huge homeless to jail pipeline? And homelessness leads to people being cited and arrested for minor offenses while just trying to live their lives? Was the city of Tampa just ruining people's lives for funsies, in the names of racism and gentrification? You know, ALLEGEDLY?

Shocked. I am shocked. Not allegedly.

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times published a detailed exposé about how the Tampa Police Department was intentionally making people homeless. It is shocking, and Wonkette is not often shocked.


WTF?

In 2013, Tampa police created what they call the "Crime-Free Multi Housing Program." As part of the program, the Tampa Police Department sent notices to participating landlords when their tenants were arrested. Many of these tenants and their families were subsequently evicted or forced to move.

Very dangerous and serious crimes cops decided to inform people's landlords about included shoplifting and driving with a suspended license. An entire family was evicted after a teenager was accused of stealing $4.44 in change from parked cars. One man had a notice sent to his landlords after being arrested for panhandling (which, it should be noted, is an activity protected by the First Amendment).

Ninety percent of the 1,100 people narc-ed on to their landlords were Black. Three-quarters of the apartment complexes in question were majority Black — the largest of which was the Tampa Bay Housing Authority, where some of the city's most at-risk residents live.

Police reported more than 100 people arrested for misdemeanors. In dozens of cases, the people in question had the charges against them dropped. That's right — people were evicted because of alleged "crimes" that were never even prosecuted. Although the program was supposed to be about crime happening at the residences, at least 140 people were reported for alleged crimes that happened nowhere near their residences. And, incredibly, it gets worse, as some people were reported to their landlords for things that didn't even result in an arrest.

Jasmine Backer, a single mother who suffers from anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder, was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Police sent her landlord a "Tenant Criminal Violation" and she was evicted. She was homeless and her kids had to stay with relatives for more than a year. At one point, she slept on a park bench while five months pregnant.

Darryle Jackson and his two-year-old daughter were evicted from their Robles Park home after Darryle's brother was arrested for possession of marijuana. His brother hadn't lived in the apartment for six months. The charges were eventually dropped. Police sent a notice to the landlord of a 27-year-old woman in Robles Park who hadn't been arrested; they just felt like they received too many calls from her for "boyfriend and daddy drama."
Amazingly, in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Bill Jackson, the director of public safety at the housing authority, "wasn't concerned that people were evicted even when the State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute," according to the paper's summary of his statement.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who started the program when she was the city's police chief, also still defends it to this day. Despite being presented with the evidence from the investigation, she claimed she didn't "think that the landlords are evicting somebody based on a notice of arrest." And when confronted with the fact that her program was super racist, Castor seemed to imply Black people are just criminals, saying, "Criminality is not a protected class."
The evidence, of course, shows that Castor and Jackson are full of shit.

Surprise, surprise!

Entirely unsurprisingly, most of the reports and evictions have been at Robles Park Village, an area the city and developers are working to gentrify.

The eviction program didn't just operate as a nice, easy way to attack Black people, it also helped pave the way for the city and developers to gentrify Robles Park. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that rent in the Tampa Bay area is rising faster than in any other metro area in the country.

According to the Tampa Housing Authority's descriptions of the plans for Robles Park Village, "85 percent of the new development will be 'affordable rental housing,' while the remaining 15 percent is set to be at market-rate or higher with 77 luxury townhouses lining the property." Local residents say they have been told essentially nothing about what's going to happen to them. One resident says she thinks the entire project is "designed to push us out as far as possible," with the next closest Section 8 development a half-hour drive away.

Evicting low-income people of color to make way for rich white people is nothing new. Last year, a former Atlanta PD officer wrote about how he left the force after realizing he was being told to aggressively police a specific Midtown Atlanta area just to make room for a new development.

Isn't this fucking illegal???

Yes. Yes it is.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing, including actions that have a disproportionate impact against a group based on protected categories like race. As the notices the Tampa PD sent were about Black people a whopping 90 percent of the time, we would say that prooooooobably qualifies.

The day after the Tampa Bay Times report came out, a bunch of civil rights groups, including the NAACP, ACLU, ACLU of Florida, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and NYU Law Civil Rights Clinic sent a letter to Castor and the city council demanding the city end the program. City council member Orlando Gudes, a former police officer who represents an area largely impacted by the program, sent a letter to Castor, asking her to suspend the program.

The ACLU has filed lawsuits challenging similar programs in other cities around the country.

But wait!

Something good already happened in response to the Tampa Bay Times investigation!

On Saturday, Castor announced that the city's program is being reformed. Under the new requirements, the police will only tell landlords about "certain serious drug and violent felonies" that occur on their properties. A police captain will have to sign off on all notices sent.

That's great! But it's not enough. The Tampa PD is still going to report people for arrests, not convictions, which ipso facto means they will still be targeting people who are legally presumed to be innocent.

Like Yvette Lewis, the Hillsborough County NAACP president said, "This program needs to be stopped. You're treating housing as though it's a privilege."

[Tampa Bay Times]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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