By Corinne Murdock |
In addition to being found at fault for the notorious homeless encampment in downtown Phoenix known as “The Zone,” the city of Phoenix must also pay over $221,000 in attorney’s fees and costs.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott Blaney issued the order for attorney’s fees on Monday. This latest order followed his September ruling which determined that city of Phoenix officials had not only failed to abate the public nuisance known as The Zone but had maintained it.
“The City of Phoenix shall maintain its public property in the Zone in a condition free of: (a) tents and other makeshift structures in the public rights of way; (b) biohazardous materials including human feces and urine, drug paraphernalia, and other trash; (c) individuals committing offenses against the public order. The Court will employ a reasonableness standard to future allegations of violation of (b) and/or (c). The Court does not intend this order to create a private cause of action for every non-pervasive violation of subsection (b) and/or (c). Further, the Court will require evidence of a substantive, good faith attempt to address any future violations of this order with the City before seeking court involvement.”
As reported previously, the city cleaned up The Zone several days in advance of the court-ordered deadline. This resulted in an over 82 percent success rate in admittance of the area’s homeless into shelters. The city also installed signs prohibiting encampments and other criminal activities around the area that formerly housed The Zone.
Blaney’s September ruling found the city to be at complete fault for The Zone. Blaney declared that the city had displayed an utter disregard for law-abiding citizens and tolerated crime by the homeless.
“The City’s refusal to meaningfully enforce statutes and ordinances in the Zone has created a classic siren song to certain individuals that are enticed at their peril by the Zone’s drugs, sex, and lack of societal rules.”
Additionally, Blaney found that the city intentionally stopped or materially reduced enforcement of laws in The Zone, as well as transported the homeless using taxpayer-funded “courtesy rides” from police officers and community organizations.
All in all, Blaney found unequivocally the city to blame for the increase in violent and organized crimes such as assaults and murders, drug usage and sales, public defecation and urination, rape and prostitution, and property damage and theft. City officials admitted to decriminalizing these behaviors.
Despite what city officials have indicated, it is unknown how many of the homeless population in Phoenix are homeless by choice. City representatives admitted that determinations of involuntary homelessness have been based on self reporting, not investigatory efforts into that individual’s case. They also admitted to being stumped by “service resistant” homeless: those who refused services like shelter because they didn’t want to adhere to any rules imposed, such as leaving behind contrabands like drugs or weapons. About 20 percent of homeless were “service resistant” according to a survey.
Despite the mass encampment cleanup, some community members have noted that homelessness persists in the area.
Cleanup efforts began back in May after the city unsuccessfully petitioned against a court injunction.