Santa Cruz cracking down on homeless encampments

July 9, 2012 6:31:26 PM PDT
Santa Cruz is launching an aggressive crackdown on homeless encampments, which pollute the environment and could potentially spark wildfires. There are several areas being targeted, including San Lorenzo Park.

Santa Cruz police have made sweeps like this before, but now they are teaming up with the Department of Public Works and the Department of Parks and Recreation for a new pilot program, targeting the most dangerous campsites and repeat offenders.

Miguel Deleon is a musician, but he is perhaps better known in Santa Cruz as one of the city's most infamous illegal campers. He says he's been cited too many times to count.

Deleon says he doesn't drink, start open fires or trash the environment, but many illegal campers do and so the city has formed a multi agency task force to crackdown on notorious campsites.

"We can't just have people taking up space on public land, degrading that land and the impact they can have on public safety," Santa Cruz City Councilmember Ryan Coonerty said.

The city says summer months bring more families outdoors and more complaints about homeless behavior. For the next four to six weeks, additional resources will focus on cleaning up the problem areas.

"I just feel like it is a form of discrimination, it's financial discrimination," Gary Curry, who is homeless, said.

The task force is also trying to get 124 repeat offenders off the streets. They are people with citations who haven't shown up for three or more court appearances and can now be prosecuted for a misdemeanor.

"A lot of these people actually, just to get them in front of a magistrate can get them into programs they need, be it alcohol or drug alcohol treatment programs, but if don't continually fail to appear, they don't even have access to services some of them need," Santa Cruz Police spokesperson Zach Friend said.

If police find Deleon, he is on the list of violators who could be arrested immediately. He's lived on the streets for 10 years, and like many, says he doesn't want the kind of help the city is offering.

"The more I am outside, the more I Iove it, the more they put me inside the less I care to be here; I don't need walls," Deleon said.

The task force is focusing on parks, freeway interchanges and beaches.


Load Comments