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Transients on 4th Ave. concern students

Cassandra Tomlin/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Some students living in the downtown area have reported finding transients sleeping, loitering and panhandling in their yards or on their porches. Police say there is little to be done to prevent such offenses.
By Cassie Blombaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 29, 2005
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Students living near North Fourth Avenue have complained about homeless people wandering in front of and onto their property, but police said there is not much that can be done to prevent such intrusions.

Michael Rodarte, a pre-pharmacy sophomore, said he lives on East Ninth Street at the corner of North Fourth Avenue, and though the presence of transients doesn't usually concern him, he is beginning to feel unsafe after waking up to see a man sitting in the backyard outside his bedroom window.

Later he and his roommates found a wallet in their backyard with cards scattered all around it, Rodarte said.

"One of the cards was from Alcoholics Anonymous, and a couple others were from Behavioral Services," Rodarte said. "This was a little scary because a crazy person somehow jumped a wall and was hanging outside my bedroom."

Their backyard is surrounded by a 6-foot wall and there is also a locked gate at the entrance, said Elin Sigurdson, an undeclared sophomore who also lives at the house.

"He would have had to climb the wall to get in," Sigurdson said.

Although it is strange to have homeless people on the property, especially at night, Sigurdson said she does not fear for her safety.

"I don't think that anybody could get in and harm me, but it's kind of creepy," Sigurdson said.

In addition to hanging out in their backyard, transients also leave trash in the front yard area and sit in front of the house drinking alcohol and asking passers-by for money, Rodarte said.

Rodarte said he has called crime prevention numerous times about the transients hanging out in front of their house while drinking.

"They just come and ask them to leave," Sigurdson said.

Police said aside from asking individuals to leave when they pose a threat to those around them, there is not much they can do to prevent transients from moving about on campus or private property.

"Students have to recognize that the UA is a public campus," said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, University of Arizona Police Department spokesman. "People, even if they don't appear to be students, have a right to be on public property."

If police see a criminal activity in progress, such as trespassing on private property, then they will investigate the matter, but they can't do anything to prevent homeless people from wandering onto a person's residence, Mejia said.

Mallory Powers Loring, a journalism junior, said she lives at the corner of East Eighth Street and North Fourth Avenue, and while transients usually don't bother her, they do frighten her from time to time.

"There has been times where some homeless guy will be yelling out front," Loring said. "And that gets a little scary."

But Loring is also open to sharing her space, particularly with one homeless man who she has known for a while and allows to sleep on her property when necessary.

"He slept on my porch a couple times," Loring said.

She has known the man, for two years but hasn't seen him for a month, she said.

The man usually hangs out in a number of places downtown and is pretty conscious about not wearing out his welcome, Loring said.

"So it's not like you would get annoyed by him," Loring said.

Loring said her neighbors have also had homeless people sleep on their front porch, but they eventually grew impatient.

Dallas Wilson, an officer in the Tucson Police Department, said transients should not be considered more dangerous than any other person.

"I don't think it's fair to say that any type of person poses a threat more than anyone else," Wilson said. "If it's a trespassing, it's trespassing regardless if it's a local celebrity or a homeless person."

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