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Courts / Law

ACLU Accuses Sarasota Police of "Bum Hunting"

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Sarasota police were accused today of going on "bum hunts" against the city's surging homeless population.  The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city in a class action suit on behalf of the city's homeless. The ACLU released transcripts of police messages referring to "bum hunting'' and dressing up as "bums."

The ACLU held a news conference today, accusing Sarasota of waging a  "war on the homeless."

The city has already taken out benches and banned smoking in public parks. Two weeks ago, police arrested a homeless man for charging his cell phone in a public pavilion.

The suit claims the city is using trespassing laws to harass the homeless. Sarasota ACLU Chairman Michael Barfield says the city is approaching the problem in the wrong way.  

"I think part of the problem is a lack of due process. A lack of sensitivity to the fact that homelessness is not a crime," Barfield adds. "It is a social problem."

Sarasota's homeless population is reported to have nearly tripled in the past four years. In August alone the city arrested more than 55 homeless.

The city says there is no "war on the homeless" and that many homeless come to Sarasota because of the numerous services it offers to the poor.

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