PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — The Santa Monica Police Department over the last week has received more calls from concerned citizens about luggage and other baggage being left unattended on city streets, possibly as a result of the deadly bombings in Boston in which two men left black nylon bags filled with explosives near innocent bystanders.
SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis said the number of calls isn’t significant, but officers are being vigilant in the wake of Monday’s bombings, which killed three and injured nearly 200.
“It’s a concern,” Lewis said. “It’s incumbent upon people if they see something to say something. Please call us. Let us know what is going on, and let us investigate.”
It is against the law in Santa Monica to leave bags or other belongings unattended on any public sidewalk, street, right-of-way, streetscape, public building or facility for longer than 10 minutes. Those who violate the law are guilty of a misdemeanor and could face a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in county jail, according to the Municipal Code.
That said, it is common to see suitcases, stuffed shopping carts and duffle bags attached to bus benches or bike racks around town, especially near the Main Library and the Third Street Promenade where the city’s homeless tend to congregate. At the Main Library, Lewis said, some homeless will lock their belongings to bike racks because they are not allowed to bring much inside with them.
“If it’s suspicious we’ll have one of our two bomb detection dogs sniff it, then open it up and see what’s inside,” Lewis said. “If we book it as abandoned property, the person has 90 days to claim it before we dispose of it. They are subject to a citation.”
In Los Angeles, city officials are struggling with what to do about belongings that homeless people leave temporarily unattended on public sidewalks. In February, the city of Los Angeles asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower-court ruling preventing the random seizure and destruction of those belongings, according to the L.A. Times.
The case could have broad implications for cities grappling with how to keep streets clean and safe while respecting the property rights of those who live there.