- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Trespassing arrests in Sioux Falls have surged since the city began cracking down on people deemed to be a nuisance, and some believe the homeless community is being unfairly targeted.

Police last year made 423 arrests for trespassing. That compared with 31 in 2010, the year before the city began emphasizing the arrest of loiterers, vagrants and the untreated mentally ill, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (http://argusne.ws/1QdK4G1 ).

The effort has been popular with businesses where transients congregated.

“I don’t have to call (police) anymore,” said Shawn Kopecky, who works at a convenience store. “If they’re sitting on a bench, the cops will come by and pick them up.”

Doug Barthel, who retired last month after more than a decade as the city’s police chief, said the effort has been a success. But some believe it’s not fair to the homeless community.

Judge Bradley Zell believes there are “sweeps” conducted downtown to get unwanted people off the streets during community events.

“Clearly there were sweeps downtown,” he said after tracking arrests during events downtown last year. “Clearly there were people swept off the streets who are eyesores.”

Stacey Tieszen, coordinator of the Sioux Falls Homeless Advisory Board, said community resources could be better spent in other areas.

“Arresting trespassers is a temporary solution, and that’s where it gets frustrating,” she said.

Barthel denies the city is targeting just the homeless.

“It’s something that we’ve dealt with for years when you’ve got problem people,” he said. “Maybe they aren’t necessarily breaking the law, but they’re being a nuisance.”

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Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com

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