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Trespassing laws in California are very complex and often times there is no violation where one would typically think a violation exists. Almost all trespassing laws in California are misdemeanors that typically result in a citation or a very brief stay in jail.
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Recently, in Martin v. City of Boise (“City of Boise”), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (which is the Federal Appellate Court that has jurisdiction over Fillmore) held that ordinances prohibiting camping and sleeping on public property were unconstitutional. Consequently, the City of Fillmore may not criminally enforce a law or ordinance that prohibits camping or sleeping on any public property.
The Court, however, stated there are limited circumstances in which a person can be cited for camping. In Fillmore, the City may only remove or relocate encampments in limited circumstances.
Once a concern or complaint has been received, the City will investigate. The City will determine whether, under the law, any action can be taken and by whom. If the City determines that enforcement action can be taken, the appropriate personnel will respond consistently with best practices.
If enforcement action cannot be taken, the City will still attempt to engage with anyone at the encampment and offer services they may be eligible for that may result in ending their cycle of homelessness. Even if an encampment cannot be removed by enforcement, the City still attempts to resolve the issues created by the encampment through contact with those present there and repetition of offering services.
Please understand that due to the laws surrounding this issue, this process often does not yield immediate results. It could take multiple interactions to resolve the issues. It doesn’t mean work isn’t being done that will ultimately resolve the issue.
The City of Boise case only applies to public property (i.e. City parks, bike trails, open space, City-owned property, etc.), not private property. Any private property owner can still have any individual or encampment removed from their private property if there is a trespass. Like any trespass, the private property owner must request the person be removed and cooperate with law enforcement, including completing the required forms for enforcement of private trespass. The City of Fillmore can assist private property/business owners with tips for preventing future issues.
Often, we receive complaints from citizens related to homeless encampments that are actually located on private property (either because the private property owner is absentee or because they are allowing the activity). In these situations, it will ultimately require the private property owner to act, as the City will not enter onto private property to address any issues without the property owner’s consent.
The Fillmore Police Department enforces laws where applicable; however, homelessness in itself is not a crime. In addition, recent court cases have made it more difficult to enforce laws traditionally used in homeless incidents such as living out of a vehicle and illegal camping. In addition, propositions recently approved by California voters have either decriminalized or minimized narcotics offenses. In many cases, where a person would have gone to jail in the past, they are either given a citation or there is simply no violation that exists anymore. Long-term solutions require the cooperation of all stakeholders following a comprehensive plan and the cooperation of citizens to not enable a homeless lifestyle by providing them with short-term food and money.
Many times, the money that is given to a panhandling homeless individual can be used to aid addiction, such as drugs or alcohol. It may also provide short-term relief that keeps people from accepting social service support geared for the long term. Money that people give to homeless individuals who panhandle on the street can be better served for the services that provide food, clothing, shelters/housing, or drug/alcohol/mental health rehabilitation. These are all services that people experiencing homelessness can access. For more information, please visit the Homelessness Resources Page.
The causes vary widely, but often homelessness and poverty are linked. Being poor can mean a person is one illness, one accident, or one paycheck away from living on the streets. Top contributors to homelessness also include:
Conducting monthly welfare checks by Ventura County on our homeless population.
Businesses and property owners can request a Trespass Enforcement Authorization form from the Fillmore Police/Ventura County Sheriff’s Office. Once completed, this form serves as a formal request by a business or property owner to law enforcement to remove anyone who is loitering or engaging in any unlawful activity on their property. To allow the Fillmore Police/Ventura County Sheriff’s Office to detain or discourage people from loitering, trespassing, or engaging in any other illegal behavior in or around your business in your absence, the Sheriff’s must already have a Trespass Enforcement Authorization form for the applicable property.
By completing this form, a property owner authorizes law enforcement to arrest and/or issue citations to trespassers. The form is valid for up to 12 months from the date it was signed. To obtain a form you can request one at the Fillmore Police Station located at 524 Sespe Avenue or request a form via email at Fillmore.firstname.lastname@example.org. The completed form can be returned to the Fillmore station or submitted via email to the listed email address.
DO answer requests with a firm NO.DO report illegal activity by calling 911 or non-emergency number at (805) 654-9511.DO treat homeless with respect.DO offer information where they can get help, dialing 2-1-1.DO make donations to local organizations helping homeless.
DON’T encourage panhandling by giving money, food, etc.DON’T allow anyone to camp or loiter on your property.DON’T assume you’re making a difference when you are giving; you may be hurting, nothelping.
For crime or illegal activity, please contact the local police station by calling 911.