The Orange County Register
March 24, 2009

Anaheim police routinely scour city records of families receiving federal rental assistance to look for links to crime suspects, a practice that critics say amounts to placing the poor under illegal surveillance.

[efoods]The Anaheim Housing Authority is the only rental assistance agency in Orange County that shares its files – names, Social Security numbers, addresses – with police, as part of the agency’s effort to enforce program rules. However, legal experts and community activists say such broad access to housing records violates federal law.

U.S. Code Section 1437z of Title 42 states that police can request data only on specific individuals who are fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody and confinement; are violating probation or parole; or have information necessary to law enforcement. Police must provide the housing authority with the name of the individual being sought.

“As you can see, (the law) is tailored to avoid this kind of fishing expedition,” said Richard Marcantonio, head attorney for The Public Advocates, a San Francisco law firm that represents the poor.

After being contacted by The Orange County Register, officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the program, said the agency would review Anaheim’s practice.

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