If You’re Poor in Anaheim, You’re Probably a Criminal!

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Tony Saavedra has an OC Watchdog report today in the Orange County Register that caught my eye. I almost missed it.

Anaheim surveillance of poor may overstep federal law

Anaheim police routinely scour city records of families receiving federal rental assistance to look for links to crime suspects, a practice that critics say amounts to placing the poor under illegal surveillance.

The Anaheim Housing Authority is the only rental assistance agency in Orange County that shares its files – names, social security numbers, addresses – with police, as part of the agency’s effort to enforce program rules. However, legal experts and community activists say such broad access to housing records violates federal law.

U.S. Code Section 1437z of Title 42 states that police can request data only on specific individuals who are fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody and confinement; are violating probation or parole; or have information necessary to law enforcement. Police must provide the housing authority with the name of the individual being sought.

“As you can see (the law) is tailored to avoid this kind of fishing expedition,” said Richard Marcantonio, head attorney for The Public Advocates, a San Francisco law firm that represents the poor.

After being contacted by The Register, officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, said the agency would review Anaheim’s practice.

Of course, the same people on the right who stood by the shredding of Constitutional rights by the Bush administration will probably say; “If you’ve got nothing to hide, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Now I’m not too surprised that this policy comes on the watch of Mayor Curt Pringle. He is the same guy who is notorious for voter intimidation in 1988  when his Assembly campaign and the county Republican Party placed uniformed security guards at some Santa Ana polling places. The guards, including some who asked voters for identification, carried signs in English and Spanish warning: “Noncitizens can’t vote.” The incident prompted an FBI investigation and a civil rights lawsuit. Without admitting any wrongdoing, Pringle and the local GOP agreed to pay $400,000 to settle the lawsuit. No criminal charges were filed.

So I’ve got to wonder, how are the Republicans promoting the Anaheim Police Department’s Deputy Chief Craig Hunter as a replacement for Sheriff Sandra Hutchens going to spin this one?

Read the rest of  the story here.

  2 comments for “If You’re Poor in Anaheim, You’re Probably a Criminal!

  1. Robin Marcario
    March 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Chris,

    Thank you for writing about this important subject. It is often said a society can be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable. This is profiling of the poor.

  2. Misha Houser
    March 24, 2009 at 9:53 am

    In an era in which our biggest criminals are those who have brought the world economy to the brink of disaster, it’s a sad commentary on a society that looks for blame among the working and lower classes, while allowing the worst criminals to collect bonuses for their malfeasance.

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