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Bounty Hunters with Badges

A homeless teen prepares to camp out under a bridge in Seattle on February 11, 2009.  © Karen Ducey 2012

Bounty Hunters with Badges    University District, Seattle     February 9, 2009

Homeless teen David Buck, age 19 prepares to camp out under a bridge in Seattle on February 11, 2009.  It is 32 degrees and he is suffering from a severe cold or flu.  There is only one shelter in the area for homeless teens which is full, as it often is.  David just wishes the cops would leave them alone.  (©Karen Ducey 2009)



David Buck, 19

I would like the cops to leave us alone because all it does it make it harder for us to get off the streets.


A perfect example is in the next week I have several appointments. So I can apply for financial aid so I can go to college.  But lets say a scenario occurs where tomorrow I don’t get in the shelter and I have to sleep somewhere typically under the bridge or somewhere else where I feel like the cops aren’t going to bother me which is in reality nowhere.  I’ll go there and the cops will come and bother me and they will write me up a citation or they’ll run my name and find out I have many citations and a warrant because I’m not able to pay off my citations.  Therefore I get thrown in jail which is inevitable because I can’t pay off my citations, I’m homeless. And I get to meet none of those appointments therefore I don’t qualify for financial aid.  In the end I’m just back on the street again which is exactly what they want.  They want scapegoats to throw in their jail…  Ultimately I would like to go to school… to study pre-med.   Its all straight -forward if I don’t get thrown in jail.  I don’t know a single person on The Ave who hasn’t been thrown in jail for the whole loophole of the citations of sleeping somewhere.


The shelter only holds 25 people.  So all of us go there.  Some nights we all get in. Other nights there’s 40 of us and we … go find somewhere else to sleep.  So the cops, they all gang together like a bunch of bounty hunters, and search for us, and write us citations.  They wake us up at 2am in the morning and tell us to get the hell out.  No matter where the hell we are. And you know what that tells us to do?  All that does is tell us to go somewhere else.  And we’re scared out of our minds trying to get to sleep here because we’re afraid that they’re gonna come just rolling up, writing us another citation and the cycle continues.  And the problem is we get these citations, and we’re homeless.  We don’t have jobs.  We can’t pay them off.  No one will pay it off for us because most of us don’t have family members who care about us   … They’ll put out a warrant because we have several citations.  … throw us in jail. And the cycle continues and it goes on and on and on.  And they don’t care. They see the problem.  They know exactly what they’re doing.  They just don’t care.  There’s not a single cop who has tried to help us once.  The police here are not keepers of the peace, they’re not protectors of justice, they’re bounty hunters with badges.

A young man sleeps on a bench at a church in Seattle, WA on February 12, 2009 because the shelter for homeless teens was full.  © Karen Ducey 2012


Xavier Garay, age 25 sleeps on a bench at a church in Seattle, WA on February 12, 2009 because the shelter for homeless teens was full.   Next month he turns 26 and will age out of all services for homeless teens. ”You have to have a sense of humor out here if you want to stay healthy.” he says. (©Karen Ducey2009)

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