In cities across the country, including in Arizona, local municipalities have passed what are known as “nuisance” laws intended to crack down on crime. The idea is to relieve the pressure on police forces that get called over and over to the same residences, often for incidents of domestic violence. But in many cases, the effect of these nuisance laws is that those experiencing domestic violence have to choose between enduring abuse, or reporting it and risking losing their homes.
In the most severe cases, residents can be banned from their own city for up to six months for calling the police more than three times within a four-month period. Where residents do not get banished from their cities, they can still get evicted from their rental homes. That’s because landlords get fined by the day when the number of nuisance calls exceeds the threshold for a particular address. From a landlord’s perspective, the solution to this problem is evicting the tenant making the calls. That means that those experiencing domestic violence can find themselves not only on the receiving end of violence, but without a home.
The ACLU has been challenging some of these nuisance laws, including one in Surprise, Arizona, which was repealed in March 2016. But the laws are still proliferating nationwide. A 2016 NPR story reports that hundreds of such laws may be on the books. And because these nuisance laws target renters, it’s often financially vulnerable people who pay the price for reporting abuse.
Domestic violence is an unfortunately common occurrence and can often happen in the context of divorce. Getting a restraining order is one step that victims can take to regain a sense of security. In the case of renters living in cities with nuisance laws, getting a restraining order may help prevent eviction as well.