Home>775Times>Ordinance Banning Vehicle Residency Sparks Debate at City Council Meeting

Ordinance Banning Vehicle Residency Sparks Debate at City Council Meeting

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, February 14, 2024 6:17 pm

During Monday’s Sparks City Council meeting, Assistant City Attorney Mariah Northington presented an ordinance aimed at prohibiting individuals from residing in their vehicles, with the intention of directing them towards services designed to combat homelessness. However, community advocates who voiced their opinions during the public comment session criticized the proposed law as inhumane and based on flawed reasoning.

The ordinance, which received unanimous approval from council members after its second reading, updates existing Sparks laws to classify living in vehicles or parking RVs on public property, as well as obstructing sidewalks and rights of way, as misdemeanor crimes. Northington clarified that while prohibitions on these activities were already in place under the city’s traffic codes, recent state legislation converted many traffic violations to civil infractions, leading to confusion with Sparks’ laws.

The amended ordinance aims to provide clarity regarding penalties for violations, which could result in up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. Northington emphasized that these criminal offenses furnish the Sparks Police Department’s HOPE (Homeless Outreach Proactive Engagement) Team with additional enforcement tools, enabling them to balance offering services and resources to individuals experiencing homelessness while ensuring public safety, order, and health.

However, the ACLU of Nevada criticized the proposed ordinance, citing concerns over its broad provisions and the potential for selective enforcement by law enforcement. They suggested that the matter may lead to litigation and urged the City Council to reconsider, emphasizing the financial implications of legal battles.

Community members echoed these sentiments during the public comment session, labeling the ordinance as inhumane and punitive towards those experiencing poverty. Advocates argued that the proposed law fails to address the underlying causes of homelessness and instead exacerbates the challenges faced by vulnerable populations.

Acting Sparks City Manager and Police Chief Chris Crawforth defended the ordinance, highlighting the significant financial costs incurred by the city due to individuals living in vehicles, including fire hazards and environmental contamination. He stressed the efforts of the HOPE Team in providing support to individuals living unsheltered, but noted that some refuse services, resulting in repeated encounters with law enforcement.

Despite opposition, council members approved the ordinance unanimously, asserting that it serves as a means to guide individuals towards assistance and support services. The ordinance took immediate effect following the council’s decision.

The passing of this ordinance reflects ongoing debates surrounding homelessness and the efficacy of punitive measures versus supportive interventions in addressing societal issues.

Credits: This is Reno

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