You got to give credit to Eureka’s Police Chief Andy Mills, he sure is a great politician!
Buried in his latest blog screed are two important items you might miss wading through all the propaganda BS in that “weary” post.
First thing we notice was how Mills is conflating transient with homeless. He reports out crime stats among the homeless and transient populations as if they were one in the same. In fact the chronic homeless in Humboldt are the most likely victims of the Transient criminals.
He claims Seventy-two percent of the EPD’s arrests for “serious violent crimes” were committed by the transient population. Then Mills asserts nearly 90 percent of robbery arrests were committed against transient people.
There is certainly cross over between these two populations but they really are not the same. Many of Humboldt Counties’ homeless have lived here their whole life. The transient population is the very visible one on the rise, as they arrive here from all of the country. Many are attracted here by the legends they heard about our county. ie. Abundant drugs and all the weed you can “smoke, steal & deal”; plus little or no law enforcement!
Mills goes on to brag about his recently announced plan to “condense” Eureka’s homeless population into the Palco Marsh, saying “By “condensing” the population into a fairly large but controllable area it allows the police to treat it as a ‘hot spot.’ “So to minimize and reduce the problem EPD is directing the homeless to move to an area more accessible by police, fire and medics. This area is near the poll shed area along the bay. Many have cooperated but those who refuse will be cited and then arrested. Our analysis showed that people living there want isolation, concealment and freedom from theft and the police. The location was attractive because this area provided all of these traits. We are also strictly enforcing the law elsewhere in the city to prevent displacement.”
As you can see Chief Mills fails to understand he has misidentified his target; transients. Many of them stay in one of wide selection of slum lord “flop houses” and motels in Eureka. That’s their base of operations. Then they go out from there and burgle, shoplift and rob. This transient population generally has a very different makeup than the chronically homeless.
Mills goes on to claim “By condensing the population into a fairly large but controllable area it allows the police to treat it as a “hot spot.” Some research would suggest that as little as 20 minutes of treatment a few times a day will help to control and reduce crime and criminal opportunity in hot spots. EPD officers have been directed to as often as possible patrol the area where people camp and arrest those committing crimes. The outlying areas where people are camping illegally will receive maximum enforcement by officers specifically assigned to carry out this effort. Now the big trick…do this compassionately. After all, weary not in doing good.” This is a bastardized version what many common sense advocates have been calling for the last couple of decades. Designated camping areas with dumpsters, porta-potties, fire pits and water. Mills has to use the unfortunate military sounding “Hot Spot” (zone), but regular foot patrols though the camp is essential.
We think that it’s a good start to have identified a designated camping area. Obviously, the area will need some infrastructure in order to keep the area manage-ably clean, while providing some dignity for the campers. However, Mills is purposely misidentifying all people who live a “transient” lifestyle with the chronically homeless. This mis-identification is a way of demonizing the most vulnerable population in Eureka. For example, a 22 year old meth addict riding his bike through town and stealing from cars is arrested by EPD. When asked his address, he replies “I don’t have one”. The 22 year old is being honest, because he lives in a different hotel room most nights of the week, then stays with friends when he has drugs or is low on cash. The officer marks this person as “transient”. This bike riding “one person crime” spree isn’t chronically homeless, but Mills wants you to think that person is the same as someone who has been picking up cans and living in Cooper’s Gulch for the last 10 years. There’s a big difference between these populations, but in order to justify his war on poverty Mills is purposely misstating the facts about the homeless and transient populations of Eureka.