Setting Traps As A Hostile Approach to Addressing Homelessness
"Police report that crimes against people experiencing homelessness — including assaults, robbery and rape — have increased by 42% during the past four years."
- Westword.com, July 2018
When a Denver resident discovered a dead squirrel surrounded by a ring of feces placed in an alleyway where people experiencing homelessness occasionally sleep, it seemed odd but perhaps coincidental.
A week later, residents discovered a crate with a misspelled paper sign stating “Homeless Deterant Depository" and another asking "Please Donate: Dead squirrels, dog poop, broken glass and assorted rubbish.”
One of the neighbours on the block, Lizzy Stephan said, “I was horrified to see the notes on the crate, and to see the details, like looking for glass.” “Someone has to have hatred in their heart [to do this],” Stephan adds. Beyond this incident, Denver Police report that crimes against homeless people have increased 42 percent since 2014. In that time, the aggregate number of chronically homeless individuals has also increased, according to 2018's point-in-time survey. When the crime statistics were first released, homeless advocates blamed Denver’s urban camping-ban ordinance for forcing individuals insistent on not using the city’s shelters to seek unsafe and out-of-the-way locations to hide from police. Places that not only increase the likelihood of being the victim of crime, but rile neighbours, including those set on using dead squirrels, feces and broken glass as a homeless deterrent.