5 bills target consumption of sugary drinks

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The California Legislature’s determination to lessen the amount of sugary drinks consumed by state residents may never have been greater than now – at least if the metric used is the number of bills introduced. This session, five will be taken up, and more may be on the way.

For the third time, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, has introduce a measure that would tax soda and other beverages sweetened with sugar.

The first two times, Bloom’s measure didn’t get out of committee after it faced intense, well-funded opposition from the American Beverage Association.

But Bloom told his hometown paper, the Santa Monica Daily Press, that the tax was urgently needed to nudge people to stop consuming so many unhealthy drinks.

“Everyone would acknowledge that health care costs are skyrocketing,” he said. “Diabetes and obesity are ongoing health-care crises and we need to get serious about prevention.”

Revenue from the tax – which has not been established yet but which was 2 cents per ounce in Bloom’s previous bills – would pay for programs meant to reduce diabetes and obesity. Bloom said 9 percent of state residents are diabetic and nearly half are at risk of developing diabetes.

Measure would ban Big Gulp-size sodas

Bloom’s bill will have plenty of similar company this year.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, proposes a ban on soda servings of larger than 16 ounces in seal-able cups sold at restaurants and grocery stores. A similar ban in New York City was thrown out by New York state courts – but not for a reason that has relevance in California. Judges repeatedly held that the New York City’s health board overstepped its powers in imposing the ban and should have deferred to the New York state Legislature.

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, hopes to end the common practice of displaying sodas near the checkout stands of food, convenience and other retail stores.

Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, is for the fourth time proposing that sugary drinks sold in California have labels warning of their health risks. Monning said if tobacco products’ health risks are made plain with warning labels, so should the risks of soda.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, is touting a bill intended to prevent beverage companies from offering stores special deals with lower prices for sugary drinks.

Studies split on effect of Berkeley soda tax

Soda foes got good news on Feb. 21 when the American Journal of Public Health published a study saying that soda consumption plunged 52 percent in Berkeley in the first three years after the city adopted a soda tax. 

But other research into Berkeley’s soda tax is far less encouraging, according to University of Southern California professor Michael Thom. He told the Santa Monica newspaper there was no evidence that residents reduced their caloric or sugar consumption and asserted there is little, if any, proof that soda taxes have a positive effect on human health.

A Harvard Business Review study based on an analysis of millions of transactions at California stores by Duke University professors Bryan Bollinger and Steven Sexton was also skeptical of claims of success in Berkeley. Published in January 2018, it noted that since most residents worked outside of Berkeley, they could readily buy cheaper soda elsewhere. The study also pointed to a factor not mentioned in any recent newspaper coverage of soda taxes:

“We found that much of the cost of the tax is not being passed along to consumers,” Bollinger and Sexton wrote. “Fewer than half of supermarkets changed the price of soda in response to the tax, and prices at chain drug stores did not change at all.”

3 comments

Write a comment
  1. Sean
    Sean 1 March, 2019, 07:56

    Philadelphia instituted a soda tax. This is what happened to local sales:
    “Sales of carbonated soft drinks, the largest sweetened beverage category, fell 55 percent inside the city. Just outside it, sales rose 38 percent. Energy drinks, sports drinks, ready-to-drink coffee and tea and refrigerated juice drinks have all seen similar trends.” according to this article on CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/22/philadelphias-soda-tax-isnt-the-windfall-some-had-hoped-for.html

    This loss of sales has resulted in the closure of some grocery stores inside city limits according to this story:
    “From the website of Philadelphia’s KYW, Jan. 2, 2019:
    A ShopRite store in West Philadelphia is closing. . . . Owner Jeff Brown says this location has lost approximately 25 percent of its business over the last two years because of the tax on soda and sweetened drinks.
    The mayor’s office responded with a lengthy statement. . . . “It is no surprise that Mr. Brown has decided to scapegoat the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, but neither he nor the beverage industry have yet to present [sic] any evidence that the tax has had any impact on sales. Here’s evidence to the contrary: an ongoing study by three of the most reputable academic institutions in the nation (Harvard University, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania) finds the beverage tax has not affected overall store sales, contrary to other public claims by this supermarket chain.”

    I realize that a statewide soda tax as opposed to a local city soda tax will not be so easy to avoid but it’s pretty darn easy to find another source for a sugar fix.

    There is a huge socio-economic factor in who consumes the most sugar, according to this NIH report https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2743027/
    In essence it tends to be young males with little education and low income who consume the most sugar. I suspect few in this demographic sit behind a desk all day plus they tend to be the most physically active in both work and leisure activity. It likely won’t affect the health of those consumers subjected to this regressive tax but it is one heck of a way for urban educated elites to dip into the pockets of the uneducated working poor.

    Reply this comment
  2. ima kidder
    ima kidder 17 May, 2020, 17:51

    Please show me a single soda that contains sugar [aside Pepsi’s fairly recent “new” niche]. Listed ingredients show added sweetening using corn syrup – as does multiple edibles and just about every liquid refreshment consumer product sold. Corn syrup is not sugar. It’s a replacement for sugar made popular early in the United States embargo of Cuban imports, a primary source of sugar at the time.

    Reply this comment
  3. Edward Ryan
    Edward Ryan 10 June, 2020, 02:32

    I’m Ed Ryan , and I’m running for Mayor of LA2022. I did 6 months ( 618 to 12/18) in LA Men’s Central “Education Dorm” and kicked it with Drakeo quite often. The Drakeo is a really good person who is is .. I-N-O-C-E-N-T. Before moving to LA, I was a Criminal Lawyer in Mass for ten years. So I know what I’m talking about. Since 2015, I’ve been investigating the real LAPD dirt and getting jailed for it on and off, for the last three years. (see below) In Drakeo’s case, the DA, the LAPD detectives and the Judge are bigger criminals than Drakeo will ever be. The police in LA are corrupt racist who need to be stopped. In San Fernando Valley the racist LA FBI is ok with a crew of LA Sheriff deputies having racist white supremist tattoos. These same deputies have full access to the racist Palantir Predictive Crime system. They use the system and LAPD vigilantes from LA Fusion center to Hem- up people of color they don’t like. I wonder what role Palantir is playing to shut down Drakeo? We will never know because Palantir is a racist construct that requires police state spying on civilians to be effective , and it’s all kept secret. It was developed when the CIA financed racist libertarian Oligarch, Peter Thiel, who is Trump Lover, and full supporter of Racist Trump ‘Law and Order BS.
    I have no doubt Drakeo is being is innocent. I knew him and his crew well in jail. I did legal research and sometimes shared food with the blacks, and the Woods threaten a beat down. When I( told them no way was I going to hate like them, things got tense for me. I remember Drakeo Clowning the Wood shot-caller so it wasn’t going to be a problem.
    Drakeo is innocent all day long, but the criminal justice people in Los Angles are the dirtiest crew of lying racist ever to walk the earth. The LAPD shreds anything to do with the truth when it wants to convict someone of color who they can’t control. The LAPD is running this case not the DA and not the judge, The Racist Corrupt LAPD calls all the political shots in LA , and they are back by real dirty slime from the ultra-racist LA FBI. In any other jurisdiction Drakeo would be out NOW.
    In Drakeo’s case, the Prosecution clearly caused the mistrial through it’s totally racist prosecution theory focusing street lyrics. They demonized Drakeo and his artistic interpretations. In LA, racist courts support racist cops, and fill California prisons with people of color. It’s racism ugly evil at the utmost. In Drakeo’ case, the Prosecutors now violates Drakeo’s constitutional rights to a fair trial. The prosecution illegally gained information from the mis-trial they caused. Now they try to use that information to convict in a second trial. That is called ‘Double Jeopardy” and is unconstitutional, but not in LA when the LAPD have it in for a Black man who is making it with his art that people listen to. What a sick farce. And it is happening to a real good man, This is a man who has way too much love for life and people to be doing what the LAPD is trying to hang on him.
    The LAPD has metaphorically lynched a lot of Black men in their day with the racist three strike rule and phony murder beefs, and here we go again. Give me a break. This is the same LAPD who uses vigilantes and electronic harassment to drive homeless victims to suicide through continued harassment . Just read the ‘LAPD Crimebuster Vigilante Complaint “ below. What they do is wholesale manslaughter on a daily basis. Using LAPD Vigilantes to harass, threaten , confuse and depress, they ‘induce suicide” in homeless victims of color. Inducing suicide is manslaughter, these people have blood dripping from their hands.
    The re-trial of Drakeo is as racist as it gets. I will call for your release, and say that Govern Newsome should \step in and pardon ,now because the community who now protest in LA will not stand to see their artist from their streets lynched by a criminal racists wearing cop and court garb. Drakeo is not the Rapper that racist prosecutors try an hang, No it has been done before. In fact, the police and prosecution have handbooks on how to do it best. Drakeo is a LA artistic hero who has his back against the wall, LA needs to support Drakeo. I will follow this very closely, and expose every piece of racist dirt they use on him. I haste the racist injustice corrupting LA and preventing fairness to people of color. I hate it from the bottom of my heart. Drakeo is an innocent man. He is artist translating the street life to art. The LAPD just does not like that, especially since street lyrics in LA have a lot to say about LAPD and The LA Criminal Justice system doing racist hate crimes on a daily basis.
    Now, I run for Mayor of LA 2022 from the LA underground as the dirty police have a probation warrant to arrest and shut me down, again. That is not going to happen, I will stay underground and keep ripping the lid off the Racist Corruption that is real racist and way to sick to understand. We are talking about Oligarch greed as Billionaires like Rick Caruso bribe their way to profit from misery. They pay millions into corrupt pay for play, Behest Funds. Caruso and other luxury developers Build profitable luxury housing, they get a free pass, and don’t have to build the required number of affordable units. The end result, an LA for only the rich. In LA the lack of affordable housing can be traced pay off stopping Affordable housing from being built. No affordable housing for regular LA folks, that is sick. When I’m Mayor of LA our building Department will build affordable housing, We will use eminent domain to transform their office towers and hotels to affordable housing. My campaign slogan is “Take the Power”, and I mean it.
    Rick Caruso also the LA Police Commissioner who created the LA Community Police Division to be what it is now, a division of Spy rats who recruit civilian vigilantes from the Neighborhood Counsels across LA. These are the same neighborhood counsels created by 1999 Charter Reform that refused to give LA Voters real power via a large 40 seat City Council like seen in NYC and Chicago. LA voters get no power of representative democracy to stop racist corruption. The small LA City Counsel of only 15 members city is easily corrupted by LAPD strong Arm Threats and pay/play greed. The LAPD has full control, which mean the mostly unseen millionaire LA elite, and Billionaire oligarchs like Rick Caruso, who pay-off the LAPD Brass, have control.

    See : Los-Angeles-AG-Complaint-update-20181.pdf, and learn how LAPD Vigilantes recruited by LAPD Topanga Community police SLO’s and LA City Attorney Topanga Neighborhood Prosecutor, use ‘LA Crimebuster Facebook groups to organize vigilante harassment stalk and constantly harass victims ( usually homeless person of color) by coming up-close into victims personal space to repeatedly photograph with their phones. The AG complaint is a 70 page (partially ser forth below) detailed document filed by attorneys for WRAP social justice agency. LAPD Vigilantes have harassed and caused me to be wrongfully incarcerated 6 times since 2015 https://youtu.be/WfOn1BM5BHw , as it is my instinct to fight back in self defense, These LAPD are used as “provocateurs’ by both LAPD and LA Sheriff, and use psychological “no touch” torture techniques borrowed from the hated Stasi secret police, It is unbelievable but very true, This horror of what they do is do bad and kept so secret that no LA elected or appointed official has made any comment about the complaint when filed with California Attorney General Becerra in October of 2018. His office has refused to investigate the complaint, The LAPD division of community police and sheriff are deeply involved in using the LA Fusion Center and are constantly doing surveillance LA Fusion Center or the Los Angeles Joint Regional Intelligence center. Palantir is CIA Financed Predictive Policing system that relies on racial profiling https://www.mintpressnews.com/palantir-the-paypal-offshoot-becomes-a-weapon-in-the-war-against-whistleblowers-and-wikileaks/236545/#.XuBX0rRC0QI. Why is this “LAPD Crimebuster Vigilante” complaint staying so quiet, that even the LA Times abides by the need to silence it.? The CIA and The LA FBI and Homeland Security are deep state entities with whom LAPD command have ‘Liaison” officers for. The LA Times has a record confirming CIA ties to the newspaper. LA Times reporters have been kicked out of foreign countries because they CIA agents masquerading as reporters. Yes, The LA Times works with or for the CIA. Reporter working for the CIA fired from LA Times, now …https://anarchimedia.com/2019/01/02/reporter…Jan 02, 2019
    The LA Times never asked Mayor Garcetti or City Attorney Feuer about it, and they never asked Attorney General Becerra why he refused to investigate the complaint, The reason is the complaint exposes how the rights of LA people are trampled daily by LA law enforcement and a Judicial system that knows all about it and cooperates in ways that corrupt LA courts and completely denies the constitutional rights of those targeted. people of color , and politic advocates like me.

    Below is : Los-Angeles-AG-Complaint-update-20181.pdf, In you can read how the LAPD Community Police use Vigilantes from LA Crimebuster groups to Racially Harass.
    CONTACT Paul Boden, Executive Director, Western Regional Advocacy Project: [email protected] Tristia Bauman, Senior Attorney, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty: [email protected] Steve Diaz, Deputy Director, Organizing, Los Angeles Community Action Network: [email protected] August 1, 2018 Updated November 20, 2018 Attorney General’s Office California Department of Justice P.O. Box 944255 Sacramento, CA 94244-2550 Dear Eleanor and Kelli, Similar to other communities in Los Angeles County, and across the country, the City of Los Angeles lacks sufficient affordable housing and emergency shelter to meet the needs of individuals experiencing homelessness.1 Without access to affordable housing and emergency shelter, homeless persons in Los Angeles reside in public and private outdoor spaces, leaving them vulnerable to a seemingly growing and alarming trend of anti-homeless vigilantism and abuse in California. 2 As Los Angeles has failed to develop and implement constructive solutions to remedy the city’s unsheltered homeless crisis, fatigued groups of private citizens have engaged in anti-homeless intimidation, harassment, and violence in an effort to displace homeless individuals from shared public space. Reports we have received throughout the state indicate that private groups – ostensibly organized around protecting public safety – often work in concert with local governmental actors, such as police, to intimidate, harass, or physically remove homeless people 1 The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Homeless Count 2017 Report notes that around 34,189 people experienced homelessness on any given night in 2017; 74% of the 2017 homeless population was unsheltered and only 26% was sheltered. Per Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding, a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, California had the highest number of reported homeless encampments in 2017, further demonstrating the lack of affordable housing and emergency shelter available to homeless individuals in the state. 2 No Safe Street: A Survey of Hate Crimes and Violence Committed Against Homeless People in 2014 & 2015, a report from the National Coalition for the Homeless, reports that the National Coalition for the Homeless has documented “1,650 acts of violence against homeless individuals by housed perpetrators over the past 17 years (1999-2015).” Of the documented attacks, the majority—334—have taken place in California. 2 and their property from public view. For example, private groups of individuals may partner with local law enforcement to evict a homeless encampment from public space without due process of law. Moreover, these private citizens often escape any punishment for their harassing, discriminatory, or even violent conduct because local law enforcement consistently fails to act upon complaints from homeless people and their advocates. Los Angeles is a place where vigilante activity against homeless people has been documented and reported, but to no avail. Homeless persons complaints about this activity have been ignored or insufficiently addressed, despite the City of Los Angeles’ stated interest in protecting homeless individuals from undue abuse. Indeed, the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission is dedicated to addressing “divisive attitudes that can lead to inter-cultural tension, hate crimes and related violence” against vulnerable groups, including the homeless population.3 Therefore, we seek an investigation into the potential civil and human rights violations of homeless people in Los Angeles described below. 1. Potential Cyberharassment and Cyberstalking of Homeless Persons by Crimebusters Transient Homeless Encampments and Crimebusters of West Hills and Woodland Hills Members Residents of the City of Los Angeles navigate one of the most challenging rental housing environments in the country, and many individuals are too poor to afford permanent housing.4 Los Angeles also lacks sufficient emergency shelter to support those facing homelessness. Without access to affordable housing and emergency shelter, homeless individuals resort to residing in public and private outdoor spaces. Private citizens fatigued by a lack of governmental response to the city’s unsheltered homeless crisis have formed anti-homeless vigilante groups to facilitate the displacement of homeless people from the community. Such anti-homeless vigilante groups include the Crimebusters Transient Homeless Encampments (“CTHE”)5 and Crimebusters of West Hills and Woodland Hills (“CWHWH”) groups.6 3 Recognizing that the homeless are “particularly vulnerable, and often avoid contact with law enforcement,” the Commission has established the Homeless Victim Data Project to “build a comprehensive data collection system that will ultimately provide the detailed information necessary to better understand and address crimes against homeless individuals.” 4 According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Homeless Count 2017 Report, the “median rents for existing housing stock has risen faster than median income over the last 25 years,” leaving a large portion of vacant housing units unaffordable for many individuals in Los Angeles. In fact, Tent City, USA: The Growth of America’s Homeless Encampments and How Communities are Responding, a report from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, reports that a majority of California renters “pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent, and nearly one third pay more than 50 percent, increasing their risk of housing insecurity and eviction.” 5 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2036526946631611/ 6 https://www.facebook.com/groups/WHWHCS/ 3 CTHE and CWHWH are Facebook-based communities comprised mostly of residents from neighborhoods in the San Fernando Valley, including West Hills, Woodland Hills, Canoga Park, and Winnetka. As of June 26, 2018, CTHE, established in 2017, has 2,706 members, and CWHWH, established in 2016, has 9,632 members. The shared mission of the online forums is to “make our neighborhoods a safer place to live and help protect each other.”7 To actualize the goal of fortifying community safety and general wellbeing, the forums function as spaces for crowdsourcing crime-related news. CTHE and CWHWH assist “residents and community members in having one central place” to share photographic and videographic evidence of suspicious activity and criminal acts.8 While the forums’ purported objective of increasing community security is arguably benign, the forums’ actual function is to facilitate anti-homeless cyberharassment and cyberstalking, and/or the use of electronic communication to annoy, threaten, or harass. Several of the posts and discussion threads on CTHE and CWHWH discuss homelessness as a nuisance and threat to community safety, leading to the digital humiliation, taunting, shaming, and derision of homeless persons: ● Members have discussed using extreme means for punishing or displacing homeless persons: In a CTHE discussion thread from March 2018, a member discusses the idea of installing battering rams on vehicles to respond to homeless individuals walking through traffic [see Figure 1 in Appendix]. In another CTHE discussion thread from January 2018, members suggest several violent tactics for removing homeless persons from around a local restaurant: baseball bats, fire hoses, pigeon spike strips, Clorox, stink bombs, poison oak, and even “sugar solution spray” (“Every insect and ant will overwhelm them, as they have overwhelmed our community”) [see Figure 2 in Appendix]. Instead of developing constructive solutions for responding to the homeless presence in Los Angeles, cruel anti-homeless acts have been considered and threatened. ● Members have spread private and possibly defamatory information about homeless persons: In an effort to make members aware of potential community nuisances and threats to security, members provide information on homeless persons that is private and, often, that casts homeless persons in a negative light. Such information includes names and information regarding homeless individuals’ identity, criminal records, mental health status or treatment history, and history of drug or alcohol dependency. For example, Sean Dinse, an LAPD Senior Lead Officer for the Topanga Community Police Station, has repeatedly used his capacity as local law enforcement to access and publicize sensitive 7 https://www.facebook.com/groups/WHWHCS/ 8 https://topangaareapolicefoundation.wordpress.com/about/board/ 4 information on homeless individuals [see Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, and Figure 6 in Appendix]. In one particular case, in response to a member complaining about a homeless individual littering [see Figure 12 in Appendix], Officer Dinse shared a screenshot of a law enforcement database entry displaying the homeless individual’s personal information [see Figure 7 in Appendix]. Such invasions of privacy and use of personal information to target and potentially defame homeless people may violate existing laws. They also increase homeless persons’ general vulnerability to targeted abuse, and they help to fortify anti-homeless sentiments. ● Members have captured and shared photographs and videos of homeless persons and their property without consent: Several posts in CTHE and CWHWH feature photographs and videos of homeless persons and their property. Oftentimes, such posts are accompanied with text that associate the homeless individuals with unfavorable characteristics (e.g. laziness, uncleanliness, criminality), inciting anti-homeless sentiments [see Figure 8, Figure 9, Figure 10, and Figure 11 in Appendix]. While the photographs and videos are disseminated with the intent to alert members to suspicious activity and criminal acts, the content, instead, invites the violation of homeless persons. For example, in a August 2017 CWHWH post, a member accuses a homeless individual of littering and shares a series of photographs of the individual’s belongings, including his car [see Figure 12 in Appendix]. The member prompts others in CWHWH to “[n]otice Mr. Perelman’s license plate.” The sharing of the photographs with identifying information intrudes upon the homeless individual’s privacy and potentially makes the homeless person vulnerable to targeted abuse. In another case, an Admin for the CWHWH group posted a photograph of a homeless individual’s car and encouraged members to help them locate the car seemingly for displacement [see Figure 13 in Appendix]. Again, such content potentially leaves homeless individuals open to targeted harm (in this case, the potential destruction or displacement of personal property with help from Sean Dinse, the aforementioned LAPD Senior Lead Officer for the Topanga Community Police Station [see Figure 13 in Appendix]). Also, the galvanizing effect of the post speaks to the organized, collective nature of CTHE and CWHWH. ● Members have generally participated in anti-homeless rhetoric and behavior: The members of CTHE and CWHWH regularly engage in digital behavior that degrades the homeless population in Los Angeles. Members have referred to homeless people as “[l]ow life scum” [see Figure 2 in Appendix], “lemmings” [see Figure 14 in Appendix], and other derogatory names. Members have used images of homeless individuals to create and share distasteful memes, including a “Happy Birthday” image addressed to 5 Sean Dinse, the aforementioned LAPD Senior Lead Officer for the Topanga Community Police Station [see Figure 15 and Figure 16 in Appendix]. In addition, members have used the forums to conspire to destroy the property of homeless persons. In one discussion thread, one member asks another to “group up” and target an identified homeless person by throwing “his [expletive] in the dumpster” [see Figure 17 in Appendix]. When members questioned the legality of performing such actions, such consideration of legal ramifications were rendered inconsequential (“I welcome LAPD to prosecute me”). The community safety concerns supposedly motivating such anti-homeless rhetoric and behavior are further called into question when considering other content posted in CTHE and CWHWH that is violent for the sake of being violent. In one discussion thread, a member asks, “Is there anything that we can do to make these vagrants scared of us instead of the other way around?” [see Figure 18 in Appendix] In response, another member comments, “Ha this page went from observe and report to cattle prods and firecrackering them in some kind of bum war, Now things are getting interesting lol.” More comments suggesting other ways to incite fear in homeless individuals (e.g. using stun guns) are also found in the thread. In a separate discussion thread, in response to a post concerned about the presence of a homeless individual in an outdoor public space, a member suggests an especially violent solution: “Lynch him!” [see Figure 19 in Appendix] Such anti-homeless sentiments and discussions are not only generally ethically questionable, but are also in violation of the groups’ own delineated guidelines: the description for CWHWH notes that there is no tolerance for “any Mean-Negative or Inappropriate comments or posts,” “Shaming,” or “Rude or Negative Behavior.”9 Beyond Facebook, the activities of the online forums have spread and been mimicked in other media, including radio: an Admin for the CWHWH group recently shared a link to a local radio station’s web page that encourages local citizens to submit and share photographs as evidence of a “vagrant invasion” in “Los Angeles and Orange Counties.”10 Under California’s criminal law, there are statutes that may define the above activity as cyberharassment and cyberstalking, consequently prohibiting such activity.11 While digital 9 https://www.facebook.com/groups/WHWHCS/ 10https://kfiam640.iheart.com/content/2018-05-14-how-has-the-homeless-problem-affected-your-neighborhood-send -us-photos/ 11 Section 653.2 of California Penal Code 653.2 prohibits the use of an electronic device to distribute identifying information of a person to incite others to harm or harass that person. Section 653m of California Penal Code 653.2 proscribes a person from making repeated phone calls or electronic communications with the intent to annoy or harass another person. Also, Section 422 of California Penal Code 422 criminalizes threats to kill or physically harm someone over electronic communication. Content found in CTHE and CWHWH may also constitute defamation, libel, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. 6 anti-homeless actions are not physical, such actions still engender a sense of fear in homeless persons and contribute to a social climate that justifies conflict and, specifically, the victimization of those navigating homelessness. 2. Participation of Local Law Enforcement in the Potential Cyberharassment and Cyberstalking of Homeless Persons In instances where an individual is being subjected to harm, local government actors, especially local law enforcement, should be readily available to provide relief. For homeless persons victimized by the anti-homeless activity of CTHE and CWHWH, local law enforcement has historically not been a reliable source of assistance. In fact, it appears that local law enforcement has failed to provide relief for homeless individuals victimized by anti-homeless vigilantism because it has supported and contributed to anti-homeless vigilante causes. Both CTHE and CWHWH were founded by Fern Peskin-White, a former member of the West Hills Neighborhood Council’s Homelessness Committee, a board member of the Topanga Area Police Foundation, a volunteer with the Topanga Community Police Station, and an Admin for CTHE and CWHWH. Peskin-White has repeatedly maintained that CTHE and CWHWH operate in collaboration with the Topanga Community Police Station in Los Angeles. In their biography listed on the website for the Topanga Area Police Foundation, Peskin-White notes that they created a “Facebook Group for our community called ‘Crimebusters’” that runs “with the help of 7 Senior Lead Officers from the Lapd Topanga Division.”12 On CTHE and CWHWH, Peskin-White has continued to claim that local law enforcement is in support of and encourages the activity of the groups. In one discussion thread, for instance, Peskin-White insists that posted content is “legal” because “police run this page” [see Figure 20 in Appendix]. In another discussion thread, Peskin-White responds to critics of the officers of the Topanga Community Police Station by stating, “we’ve All been so very lucky to have them here as our Admins since the day I created this group” [see Figure 21 in Appendix]. Some individuals involved with the maintenance of content within CTHE and CWHWH are individuals employed by the Topanga Community Police Station: ● Sean Dinse is an LAPD Senior Lead Officer for the Topanga Community Police Station. As noted under “Potential Cyberharassment and Cyberstalking of Homeless Persons,” Dinse has repeatedly used his position as local law enforcement to locate and share private and potentially defamatory information on homeless individuals. Of note, Dinse 12 https://topangaareapolicefoundation.wordpress.com/about/board/ 7 has established a pattern of offering sensitive information to the groups’ members upon request, demonstrating his active involvement in the anti-homeless vigilante acts of CTHE and CWHWH [see Figure 5 in Appendix]. Dinse has operated as an Admin for CWHWH in the past. ● Brent Rygh is an LAPD Senior Lead Officer for the Topanga Community Police Station. Similar to Dinse, Rygh has participated in posting content within the groups. In one particular CWHWH August 2016 post, Rygh shares a post where they caution members not to offer money to homeless people, for “[i]t’s nearly impossible to tell what kind of person you are giving your money to and what they are using it for” [see Figure 22 in Appendix]. Such content contributes to a societal narrative that homeless people can be deceitful and, generally, dangerous. Additionally, Rygh has confirmed that CTHE and CWHWH are products of the united efforts of local law enforcement and Peskin-White. In an August 2016 CWHWH post, Rygh writes, “Fern Peskin-White began this group in close collaboration with local Senior Lead Officers and worked with us to develop rules and practices would be employed before launching” [see Figure 23 in Appendix]. Rygh has operated as an Admin for CWHWH in the past. Notably, other local law enforcement actors are members of CTHE and CWHWH, including Topanga Senior Lead Officer Duc “Duke” Dao, Topanga Senior Lead Officer Sean Brown, LAPD Deputy Chief John Sherman, and LAPD Watch Commander Amira Smith [see Figure 24 in Appendix]. Local law enforcement’s participation in sustaining CTHE and CWHWH is disheartening because its participation lends legitimacy and authority to the egregiously anti-homeless rhetoric and actions found on the online forums. Additionally, local law enforcement should be the first line of defense for homeless individuals seeking reprieve from victimization. With local law enforcement’s involvement in spaces that facilitate anti-homeless vigilantism, homeless individuals are unable to recognize local law enforcement as a dependable arbiter of relief. 3. Harassment, Intimidation, and Violence Against Homeless Persons by Crimebusters Transient Homeless Encampments and Crimebusters of West Hills and Woodland Hills Members Photographic and videographic content is circulated within CTHE and CWHWH. Such content indicates that members have had in-person interactions with homeless individuals involving anti-homeless harassment, intimidation, and violence: 8 ● Members have verbally abused homeless persons: In several videos featuring in-person interactions between homeless individuals and CTHE and CWHWH members, the members have engaged in the verbal abuse of the homeless individuals, performing name-calling, yelling, and threat-making, among other actions. In one notable CTHE video, a member confronts a homeless individual residing on a sidewalk during the evening. After inquiring about the status of the homeless individual (via asking, among other questions, whether or not the individual is [0:29] “high”), the member, around 0:40, questions why the homeless individual has not displaced themselves: Member: So when are you gonna clear all this [expletive] up and get out of here? Homeless Individual: I’m not cleaning nothing. Member: You’re not? But everybody wants you gone. Following the member invoking those anti-homeless sentiments, the homeless individual throws an unidentifiable object onto the sidewalk, inciting the member to aggressively and repeatedly order the removal of the item ([1:17] “Pick that [expletive] up!”). After the homeless individual refuses to pick up the item, the member because increasingly belligerent, resulting in yelling, more use of expletives, prejudicial name-calling ([1:44] “You don’t do [expletive]. You [expletive] lay on here on the sidewalk. You don’t do a goddamn thing”), and threat-making ([1:32] “Dude, you’re gonna have a problem on your hands”; [1:59] “I’ll turn this [expletive] camera off and make sure you pick it up”; [2:29] “Man, you got something coming, boy”). Such verbal abuse indicates that anti-homeless rhetoric is being invoked both online and in real time. The video described above is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1gG9GIB_lWasLfELewlM_GVMheJL4iOMu/view?usp= sharing. Anti-homeless verbal abuse has been evidenced in other cases involving seniors (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FEMUYgEjgCgArj3rOyDa0N1bBO5ltBil/view?usp=sh aring) and parents with small children (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1D0t7BIkEKOI90g_NmFAVcIsTnbOX_G2J/view?usp= sharing), regardless of actual or perceived homeless status. ● Members have repeatedly confronted and captured photographs and videos of targeted homeless individuals without consent: In addition to documenting one-off interactions with homeless individuals, members have also documented repeated interactions with specific homeless persons. For example, a homeless person given the nickname “Erwin” has been the subject of several photographs and videos posted to CTHE and CWHWH [see Figure 25 in Appendix]. “Erwin,” in fact, is the homeless individual being verbally abused in the CTHE video discussed above. Such consistent 9 interactions with specific homeless individuals that involve the aggressive capturing of photographs and videos of the individuals without consent potentially constitute stalking. Interactions with homeless individuals captured on video and in photographs indicate that anti-homeless sentiment and behaviors cultivated in the online communities of CTHE and CWHWH are escalating offline; in other words, these online exchanges have material consequences. This escalation must be curtailed to avoid serious physical and other harms to an already vulnerable population, which is disproportionately comprised of members of marginalized groups like people of color and persons with disabilities. 4. Failure of Government Actors to Address Abuse of Homeless Persons Local governmental actors in the City of Los Angeles have been made aware of the activity of CTHE and CWHWH. Yet, local government actors have not taken steps to effectively address acts of anti-homeless vigilantism, even with evidence that such vigilantism may be supported and sustained by local law enforcement. In fact, in several exemplary instances, local government actors have responded to citizen complaints and reports of anti-homeless vigilantism with inaction or ineffectual solutions: ● November 2017: An email was sent to an officer of the Topanga Community Police Station regarding the anti-homeless content circulated within CTHE and CWHWH. The only action taken by the Topanga Community Police Station was the removal of a few antagonistic posts. ● November 2017: An email was sent to an officer of the Topanga Community Police Station regarding members of CTHE and CWHWH displacing donation bins thought to attract the presence of homeless individuals. No response to the email has been provided. ● November 2017: An email was sent to an officer of the Topanga Community Police Station regarding the abusive actions of CTHE and CWHWH members. Specifically, the email detailed CTHE and CWHWH members aggressively encouraging local businesses to displace nearby homeless persons. Instead of offering constructive solutions in response, the addressed officer only requested that the author of the email identify themselves, and not remain anonymous, in order to have an “adult” exchange. ● December 2017: An email was sent to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Operations Division regarding the shaming, bullying, and potential stalking of homeless individuals facilitated by CTHE and CWHWH. No response to the email has been provided. 10 ● January 2018: A email was sent to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Special Operations Division regarding the potential cyberharassment and cyberstalking taking place within CTHE and CWHWH. No response to the email has been provided. ● January 2018: An email was sent to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs Group regarding the potential cyberharassment and cyberstalking taking place within CTHE and CWHWH. In response, an investigation into the information the email provides was initiated. As of June 26, 2018, no follow-up has been provided on the status of the investigation. ● February 2018: An email was sent to an officer of the Topanga Community Police Station regarding the potential cyberharassment and cyberstalking taking place within CTHE and CWHWH. No response to the email has been provided. ● On separate occasions, calls were made to the Topanga Community Police Station and the LAPD to report the anti-homeless vigilante activity of CTHE and CWHWH. During a majority of the calls, help was offered but never actualized. Following several exhibits of anti-homeless harassment, intimidation, and violence, both physical and digital, individuals facing homelessness have not been able to rely on local government actors to refrain from or protect them from ongoing harm. Local government actors’ lacking or ineffective action against anti-homeless vigilantism both allows the continuation of anti-homeless vigilante acts and, more generally, establishes the idea that anti-homeless rhetoric and behavior are not egregious enough to warrant redress. While California’s hate crime legislation does not consider homelessness a protected status, homeless people often are members of protected classes that have historically been targeted for similar forms of harassment, intimidation, and violence.13 In the City of Los Angeles, such harassment, intimidation, and violence appear to happen in the form of anti-homeless vigilantism, necessitating that homeless individuals of the city—citizens of the city—be provided pathways to relief. Anti-homeless vigilantism, without consequences from local government actors, not only brings harm to those navigating homelessness, but also harms communities by deteriorating the relationship between the unhoused and their housed neighbors; escalating conflict. In fact, the February 26, 2018 minutes of a West Hills Neighborhood’s Joint 13 Several homeless individuals who have been violated by CTHE and CWHWH to some capacity have identities (e.g. are disabled) that are in fact protected identities, making the documented abuses intersectional abuses. 11 Homelessness Committee board meeting notes that committee co-chair Thomas Booth expressed “concern about recent trends on social media” and asked committee members to “step back and make an effort to bring both sides together to find solutions for homelessness without inflaming community members.” Additionally, in a March 15, 2018 article from local publication Valley Vantage, “Word on the Street: Homeless Foes Have Gone Too Far,” local writer Kathleen Sterling admonishes those who: “hide behind their computer screens hurling vitriol out on social media,” when responding to homelessness in Los Angeles. Furthermore, anti-homeless vigilantism harms the Los Angeles community by staining the city’s reputation among civil and human rights advocates, and undermining the city’s stated effort to secure justice and protection for marginalized and oppressed people. We ask for an investigation into vigilantism as described above in Los Angeles, and also into the growing trend of anti-homeless vigilantism throughout California. We are happy to provide you with additional information upon request, and we would welcome a meeting to discuss these issues further. We look forward to hearing from you. Yours truly, Paul Boden, Executive Director, Western Regional Advocacy Project Tristia Bauman, Senior Attorney, National Law Center on H

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Leave a Reply



Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

Related Articles

Bureaucrats Destroy CA Homes

John Seiler: Property rights aren’t just for big companies, which can hire lawyers to defend themselves. Property rights are for

Ruling adds to case against San Onofre settlement

A judicial ruling last week slamming Southern California Edison adds to pressure on the California Public Utilities Commission to abandon

Thanksgiving For Dummies

Anthony Pignataro: Well, it’s that time again: the time when fire departments across our great nation respond to 1,300 fires