LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas authorities on Saturday started enforcing a rule that makes it illegal to camp or sleep in public or residential areas if there are beds available at the five locally established homeless shelters.
City marshals started to patrol parks and the Fremont Street Experience, and police officers have started patrolling residential areas and private properties looking for anyone in violation of the new law.
People who violate the regulation, which the Las Vegas City Council approved Nov. 6, are punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, but authorities say they don't immediately expect to enforce those punishments.
Officers expect to direct people, and provide transportation if necessary, to shelters or the city-run Courtyard Homeless Resource Center.
``Enforcement is the last thing we will be doing. Being homeless is not a crime,'' police spokesman Larry Hadfield said. ``The officers are out there, they care and they really want to help. And I think it can be said that the homeless issue isn't something you can arrest your way out of.''
Citations will be issued only to people who do not accept services and refuse to move off the streets on their own, said Kathi Thomas-Gibson, the city's director of community services. Fines or jail time will be used only for those who are repeatedly cited, she said.
``There's some concern that this was about us rounding homeless people up and throwing them in jail, and nothing could be further from the truth. Frankly, we don't have the resources to do it and (have) no desire to do it,'' Thomas-Gibson said.
City officials do not know what to expect since most of the 2,000 emergency shelter beds are filled each night, she said. ``We may see five people rushing into the courtyard. We may see no change at all,`` Thomas-Gibson said.