Xpress has heard tales from a number of homeless and street people over the past couple of weeks of increased police scrutiny and as they put it “harassment” as they go on with their daily activities. Last week a group of five men were issued summonses for 2nd degree criminal trespass on the grounds of the Basilica of St. Lawrence while engaged in what they call Bible study. One of the men, Christopher Chiaramonte claimed to have permission from the church to be on the property. All of the men said they were not asked to move on by police, just detained and told they were under arrest for trespass.
After speaking with the men, several sources at the Basilica and APD, it appears Chiaramonte did not have explicit permission from church staff to be on the property. The church does not generally call the police unless there is a complaint to them or a threat to the property. As property manager Bud Hansbury says “This is a church, there are always some interesting people around. That is part of our mission, and what makes life interesting.” The church did not call police on Chiaramonte’s group and was not aware of the situation. Like many establishments in urban areas, they do have an agreement with APD about trespassing, and the property is posted.
An APD spokesman says there is no change in the city’s enforcement of quality of life laws downtown. According to Lt. Wally Welch, “The weather is nice, the bicycle, foot, and Segway patrols are more active, there is bound to be more activity with these types of incidents.”
So, draconian crackdown? Or just a normal run of events? Let us hear from you.