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article imageSarasota, Florida, charges homeless man for theft of utilities

By Nancy Houser     Nov 14, 2012 in Crime
Sarasota - A 28-year-old homeless man from Sarasota, Florida, was charged with theft of utilities when he charged his cellphone at a public picnic shelter, located at Gillespie Park. Darren Kersey spent the night in jail when he could not afford the $500 bond.
Arrested on November 11, 2012, at 9:20 p.m., Circuit Judge Charles Williams threw the case out the following morning and dropped the misdemeanor charges against Mr. Kersey. He told the arresting police sergeant, Sarasota Police Sgt. Anthony Frangioni, that he had lacked legal justification to make the arrest, according to KPIC.TV.
The sergeant told Kersey that the "theft of city utilities will not be tolerated during this bad economy" and then arrested him on a misdemeanor charge of theft of utilities.
The arresting police officer, Frangioni, is a 14-year veteran of the Sarasota Police Department. When contacted by the media about the arrest, he did not return emails or phone calls, nor did City Manager Thomas Barwin. According to the Herald Tribune, who talked to police spokesman Captain Paul Sutton, when Chief Mikel Hollaway returns he will review the case. The department will then issue a statement about the arrest and the case.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the city of Sarasota has clashed before over various homeless issues, such as violating the civil rights of over 6,500 people over a period of four years. Apparently, the city used illegal trespassing warnings to remove people off downtown sidewalks. A lawsuit was filed and the city suspended the program, currently rewriting sections of the trespass ordinance.
Australia's 9News World, reports "“We have been monitoring the efforts to root the homeless out of the parks, and have several actions planned against the city,” Barfield said. “So much happens on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep up with it. Every day there’s something new.”
Current Ocean City, Md., Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, the next replacement for Sarasota Police Chief, says she “hopes to implement a community-based strategy for dealing with the homeless, in which civilians who are familiar with local resources can intervene, rather than police.” DiPino hopes that social workers can assist Sarasota’s homeless to find shelter, food, medical care and other resources.
However, Kersey’s arrest is a reminder of why Sarasota was named the “meanest city in the nation” by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2006, according to Care2.
The problem is, many states consider being homeless an illegal act, even going so far as making it a criminal offense for someone to donate or volunteer to feed more than 25 homeless people out of their own pocket at one setting. According to the two videos in this article, "... being homelessness has been made a crime in Inglewood, California, punishable by a sentence of 40 hours of community service. Inglewood has the genius idea of turning homeless people into slave labor."
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