Black Renters Suing Antioch: Study Backs Case

Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, 2009

Low-income African American renters suing the city of Antioch for allegedly trying to drive them out of federally subsidized housing say a new study backs up their charge that police targeted them for special patrols and pressured landlords to evict them.

The report by criminologist Barry Krisberg [president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a private research organization.] said Antioch’s police Community Action Team, established in July 2006 to patrol high-crime neighborhoods, has disproportionately concentrated on subsidized Section 8 housing for the poor, and even more so on black tenants.

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Thomas Beatty, a lawyer for the city, said Monday that the police team responds to complaints about crime, drugs, abandoned cars, property maintenance and other problems and is unaware of the residents’ race before arriving at the scene.

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The federal court suit was filed in July 2008 as a proposed class action on behalf of about 800 African Americans living in Section 8 housing in Antioch, where blacks make up about 15 percent of the city’s 100,000 residents.

The plaintiffs said city officials had reacted to a near-doubling of the black population in five years by forming a squad of police that searched their homes illegally and warned landlords they could be held responsible for tenants’ misconduct.

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During that time [mid 2006 to the start of 2009], the study said, 48 percent of the households designated by the police Community Action Team for enforcement activity were occupied by Section 8 tenants. African Americans made up 56 percent of the Section 8 households and 68 percent of those designated by police for contact, the report said.

The study also found that police were more likely to send letters to landlords, warning of liability for tenant misconduct, in Section 8 households than in others, and much more likely to refer black households to the county Housing Authority for alleged crimes than non-black households.

However, the Housing Authority was much less likely to find grounds to remove African Americans from Section 8 housing than tenants of other racial backgrounds, Krisberg said.

[Editor’s Note: The “Expert Report of Barry Krisberg, Ph.D.” can be downloaded here.]

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