Don’t Arrest the Homeless for Charging Cell Phones in Public

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Target: Suzanne Atwell, Mayor of Sarasota, Florida

Goal: Allow the homeless of Sarasota to charge their phones in public parks without threat of arrest

When Darren Kersey of Sarasota, Florida plugged his cell phone into a picnic shelter’s outlet in Gillespie Park, he didn’t anticipate that such a simple action would land him in jail for the night. But when Sgt. Anthony Frangioni spotted the homeless young man, he hastily arrested him for stealing city utilities. Kersey, 28, has nowhere to call home; his cell phone remains one of his only methods of communication and one of the few ties to the hope of a normal life. Ever since Sarasota police began cracking down on the homeless who charge their electronics in public, even that hope has begun to falter.

Sarasota already has a reputation for being one of the most hostile cities in the country to the homeless. In 2006, it was named “meanest city” by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless. Arresting homeless people for plugging their phones into outlets in public parks has done little to improve this image–especially as the city seems much more willing to share its utilities with people of means. Drivers of electric cars are invited to charge their vehicles at one of many stations throughout the city free of charge, but homeless people looking to tap into that same energy supply for basic necessities face humiliation and arrest.

The homeless of Sarasota deserve better. Sign the petition to encourage Mayor Atwell to rework city policy and make outlets in public spaces free for all to use.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mayor Atwell,

Those who charge their personal electronic devices at outlets in public city parks have committed no crime other than taking from the same electricity supply that is offered freely to drivers of electric cars. Yet for plugging their phones into park outlets, the homeless face intimidation, humiliation, and arrest.

Darren Kersey of Sarasota wasn’t a criminal for charging his phone in Gillespie Park. Even after Sgt. Anthony Frangioni threw him in jail for the night for “stealing” city utilities, Circuit Judge Charles Williams threw the case out, stating that the sergeant had no legal justification for the arrest. There are no signs near the electrical outlets in public parks stating that charging personal devices is a crime. Kersey found himself arrested for a simple act he didn’t even know was illegal.

The small amount of electricity it takes to charge a cell phone battery is no drain on city resources, yet it can mean the difference between continued poverty and the chance at a job for Sarasota’s homeless. I ask that you rewrite city policy to make it explicitly clear that the homeless of the city are welcome to charge their phones at any park outlet.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Bart Heird via Flickr.

Sign the Petition

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One Comment

  1. What do they expect of the homeless, and where do they want them to go to meet basic needs?

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