Fort Myers Housing Authority accused of racial profiling
Authority enforcing trespassing laws
The Fort Myers Housing Authority coming under fire tonight, accused of discrimination for having people arrested for virtually no reason. Video by fox4now.comvideo
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The Fort Myers Housing Authority coming under fire tonight, accused of discrimination for having people arrested for virtually no reason. Housing officials say they're just trying to crack down on crime. Four in your Corner's Mike Mason explains.
The Housing Authority is joining forces with law enforcement to crack down on trespassing.....but some say they're opening the door for racial profiling instead.
Jatavia Lee remembers when she was walking outside her apartment at Renaissance Preserve recently when Fort Myers police arrested her just because she didn't tell officers where she lived.
Jatavia Lee: "Officer Campbell came and approached me and grabbed my arm and was like resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, I said obstruction of what?"
Lee had a clean record but was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice....charges which were later dropped. She feels police are targeting her community.
Jatavia Lee: "Harassment, just harassing for no reason."
Lee's grandfather is Willie Green, chapter president of the SCLS; a civil rights group. He says low income housing projects run by the Fort Myers Housing Authority are being targeted by police. The authority is encouraging officers to enforce trespassing laws but green says they've been using this as a way to profile people, especially African-Americans.
Willie Green: "I want to see them change the rules, make the rules apply to everyone equally."
Statistics show in 2010 and 2011, Fort Myers police cited 615 blacks for trespassing...300 were white. The Lee County Sheriff's Office cited 77 blacks and 571 whites.
The Housing Authority's Executive Director says he is encouraging police to enforce trespassing laws by citing anyone who has a criminal background and doesn't live at one of his communities..
Marcus Goodson:"We have more African-Americans living in the family units so the interaction between police and our residents is going to be more African-American interaction with the police just by the sheer numbers, okay."
But Green doesn't buy it.
Willie Green: "I don't think the writer of this law intended it to be used as a tool to go out and arrest young black men."
The Housing Authority is holding a meeting next Tuesday to discuss adopting a new policy which will define how trespassing rules will be addressed.