Staff Editorial: Evicted before convicted program must be stopped


Abigail Prestholdt

City council member Anne Mavity talks about her opinions on the evicted before convicted board Jan. 14. This month they are conducting interviews for potential board member.

Since 2008, the crime-free housing ordinance has been in effect in St. Louis Park. According to the city, it was put in place to address concerns about disorderly and criminal activity in housing units. The ordinance allows St. Louis Park police to tell landlords to evict tenants for reported instances of disorderly or criminal activity. The ordinance was suspended Dec. 17, 2018 by the city council, and the topic was discussed further at the Jan. 14 study session.

The Echo Editorial Board believes the crime-free housing ordinance does nothing to discourage crime and disorderly conduct. When a person gets evicted, that can affect their future choices and act as a catalyst for future crimes or disorderly conduct.

According to KSTP, from 2013 to 2018, 225 tenants were evicted, and more than 150 of those evicted were never charged with a crime. For this reason, we believe the enforcement of the ordinance is not well executed. If the intent is to evict only those guilty of crime or disorderly conduct, the ordinance is being applied incorrectly.

Additionally, more than half of the tenants who were evicted, but not charged, were only accused of petty misdemeanors, which are equivalent to a speeding ticket in Minnesota. It does not seem right to the Editorial Board that someone can be evicted for the equivalent of a speeding ticket. Additionally, it appears there are many opportunities for potential bias in the process, which should be avoided.

KSTP also reported that a city manager said the evictions are a way to address a problem without a crime going on their permanent record, which leads some to believe this system is ultimately a good alternative to traditional forms of punishment.

Acknowledging there are many sides to the crime-free housing ordinance, the Echo Editorial Board concluded the cons outweigh the pros. The board applauds the city council for suspending the ordinance and urges them to fully revoke the ordinance in the future. We believe the ordinance contradicts our country’s practice of innocent until proven guilty. The majority of the tenants were never proven guilty, yet they were punished for their supposed crime.

Additionally, the Editorial Board believes the city should do something to aid those who have been evicted prior to the cancellation of the ordinance. As many of those evicted were never charged with a crime, we feel they should be compensated in some way. The problem must be fixed, not just absolved.