Tuesday, April 30, 2013


A woman is beaten by her partner. The police are called. What do they do? Have her evicted:

Last year in Norristown, Pa., Lakisha Briggs' boyfriend physically assaulted her, and the police arrested him. But in a cruel turn of events, a police officer then told Ms. Briggs, "You are on three strikes. We're gonna have your landlord evict you."

Yes, that's right. The police threatened Ms. Briggs with eviction because she had received their assistance for domestic violence. Under Norristown's "disorderly behavior ordinance," the city penalizes landlords and tenants when the police respond to three instances of "disorderly behavior" within a four-month period. The ordinance specifically includes "domestic disturbances" as disorderly behavior that triggers enforcement of the law.

And this has exactly the effect you'd expect: deterring victims from calling police:
After her first "strike," Ms. Briggs was terrified of calling the police. She did not want to do anything to risk losing her home. So even when her now ex-boyfriend attacked her with a brick, she did not call. And later, when he stabbed her in the neck, she was still too afraid to reach out. But both times, someone else did call the police. Based on these "strikes," the city pressured her landlord to evict.

Norristown is not an isolated case. Such ordinances are widespread across the United States [PDF]. Most specifically include being a victim of domestic violence as a "nuisance" triggering fines or criminal charges to landlords, or condemnation of the property. And the message is clear: domestic violence victims are not worthy of protection under the law.

This is absolutely sickening. Fortunately the ACLU is bringing a legal challenge against these ordinances. Here's hoping they win.