Mill’s parting gift for the community; a Business District crime wave

Remember back in April 2016 when the Examiner posted:


Well those chickens have come home to roost and grown in numbers

A trip into old town and even many parts of downtown is like running the gauntlet. Stabbings, shootings and widespread thievery and vandalism.  These are some of the stories report recently….and we emphasize REPORTED because most of what goes on in Eureka’s central business district goes on under-reported and unreported. Why is that? It seems under the regimes of both police chiefs Harpham and Mills the prevailing attitude is; why bother? No one shows up, or the officer is really late (even days later) and if they do make it the cops try to dissuade you from even making a report.

Hopefully, with Mills departure from EPD, the City of Eureka will find an honest Chief who actually wants the best for the city, not a resume building silver-tongued liar.

Seriously, anybody but Captain Brian Stephens

The Examiner has reported on Mills continuing attempts at cooking the books on crime statistics:



In case you missed here is some of what some of the the local media has reported recently

Eureka Old Town businesses complain of crime increase

When Karissa Bateman began to ring up about $700 worth of clothing at Eureka Old Town’s Sassafras, the “customer” slipped her a note written in silver marker that said to put the clothes in her bag, give her all the money in the register and to not even think about calling the cops because there were two men outside watching her.

Bateman said it was another customer walking in who gave her a rush of courage to resist.

“I just yelled ‘Leave, I am going to call the police,’” Bateman said, also adding that the woman grabbed the note and left. Bateman said they haven’t seen her in the store in the week since.

Bateman said she has been working in the Old Town shop for the last year and a half. She said there were problems in the past but it’s just the last month or so they have seen a lot more shoplifting. Bateman said just over the Fourth of July event they had a man attempt to steal a $200 robotics kit and she chased him down into the crowd to get it back.

“Just recently,” Bateman said, it’s been happening. “It’s kind of strange.”

Eureka Police Department Capt. Steve Watson said the summer months usually tend to bring a lot more people into town and with more people there tends to be an uptick in crime around town. Watson said during the summer there tends to be more transient activity which could be a reason.

Down the road and across the street Shelly Pilarowski, the owner of Here and There and Vintage, was helping her customers inside her Old Town shop. Pilarowski said that over the last two years since she moved the business into Old Town, there have been four incidents in which people came into her shop just to try to steal.

“If they’re determined to steal, then it seems they’re going to find a way,” she said.

Pilarowski said one of the most recent shoplifting incidents happened when a couple kids came in and pocketed smaller items. She said her neighboring store caught the kids reselling the items, mainly handmade rings.

Pilarowski said it hasn’t only been a hinder on her business, but it’s also been disturbing because she gets the items in her store from local artist and they depend on her for their work.

She said she is constantly trying to find new ways to prevent people from shoplifting and is always taking preventative measures to stop it.

“I find it frustrating when I can’t stop people from shoplifting,” Pilarowski said.

She said she has had to tell the artist that supplies her shop items to start packaging the items in boxes as to prevent people from being able just hide them in their pockets or bags. Pilarowski said it has also been a problem because she now has to continuously watch her customers more closely, which affects her business.

Bandon Taylor, owner of The Works record and music store, said he hasn’t dealt with recent shoplifting at his Old Town store. But he said there has been a lot of times where he will have to clean up garbage, vomit and feces from in front of the store.

“Eureka City Council what are you doing?” Taylor asked and added that they need to look after the local businesses in Old Town. “Eureka Main Street, what are you doing?”

Taylor said him and a lot of business owners in the area have a lot of compassion for the homeless and drug addicts, adding that he doesn’t think the local crime is isolated from the homeless issue going on in Old Town.

In March, the EPD announced it would be working with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to arrest and detain suspects identified as habitual shoplifters until arraignment if possible.

Taylor said it would be beneficial to get a meeting together between the neighboring merchants. He said all of the merchants in Old Town benefit when the area is more attractive.

Hailey Smith, employee of Blue Ox, said she has been working in the Old Town shop for the last year and there have been a lot of people that have come in to attempt to steal. Smith said it has been such a problem that they have had to hire three employees to be able to watch the whole store.

Smith said about a little over a week ago a shoplifter came in to steal a pair of leggings. She said her boss noticed the empty hanger where the leggings had been and they caught her with them buried in her bag.

“We try and act peaceful about it,” Smith said about when they catch someone stealing.

Cathy Weeks, the owner of the store, said it has been pretty much crime season there.

Weeks said the clothing store opened up about two years ago and since then they have been hit by shoplifters so many times that she couldn’t put a number to it.

She said shoplifters will come into the store, sometimes in pairs, to create a distraction when the other person robs them.

“We’re trying to be respectful to everyone,” Weeks said. “But they don’t respect us.”

Weeks said the police haven’t really cared about shoplifters so they take things into their own hands and try to get the stuff back first. She said they have had to hold people in their shops until they have given up the items they stole

“We’ve lost quite a bit of revenue,” Weeks said.

Sam Armanino

Eureka Police Seek New Leverage Against Homeless on Third Street

A recent pair of break-ins to Betty Chinn’s warehouse on West Second Street has drawn attention to the Eureka Police Department’s efforts to address crime and loitering in the area. On Wednesday, under the direction of the Public Works department, employees of Mercer Fraser erected a fence that effectively cordons off the west side of Third street across from the St. Vincent de Paul dining facility, an area that, in recent months, has been a place where many homeless and transient people have spent the day. Local business owners have complained about problems with theft, vandalism, violence and other issues, and have been meeting with the chief of police and other officials in order to discuss potential solutions.

The break-in and theft from Chinn’s warehouse appears to have been the tipping point for public sentiment, but plans to disrupt the gathering have been in effect for several months. With arrest serving as insufficient leverage, EPD has instead developed a multi-part plan, announced in May, that will “improve the overall business climate in the surrounding area.” But how exactly the plan will be implemented and enforced, and its efficacy, might raise more questions than it answers.

In the memo titled “Crime and Blight at 3rd and Commercial,” authored by Chief Andrew Mills on May 8, Mills references a 30-year history of people gathering adjacent to St. Vincent de Paul, where meals are served daily.

“However, in the past year the number of people spending the day on the sidewalk and street has grown,” Mills continues, referring to a surge in activity at the location since the city evicted a long-standing homeless camp in the PalCo Marsh on May 6, 2016. According to data analyzed by the Journal, there was a steep increase in police calls for service to the eight-block radius around the area in the months immediately following the marsh eviction.

EPD Capt. Steve Watson says both logged complaints and anecdotal evidence, as well as observations by officers, has supported the idea that there are “increasing crowds of homeless, increasing crime and disorder” in the area.

“It got to the degree where there were a number of businesses extremely frustrated with (the) progression of problems down there,” he says. “Graffiti was increasing. They left trash right in front of free meal, on the waterfront … it looked like a neighborhood people had given up on.”

As part of the process, Watson, Mills and others held meetings in front of St. Vincent de Paul to address the crowd of people waiting there for meals, with the request that they take accountability for the criminals among them. Watson said in an interview this week that he believes this chastisement fell on deaf ears.

“There’s some group responsibility that needs to take place,” he says. “We’ve had compassion, compassion, compassion. Several people have told me they’re not interested. We don’t want to paint everyone with a broad brush, because that wouldn’t be fair. We don’t want everyone to have a consequence but virtually everyone who’s sitting there has a mess sitting in front of them. We’re looking for solutions.”

One of the proposed solutions is to temporarily stop services at St. Vincent de Paul, effectively communicating to those who congregate in front of the building that bad behavior by some will curtail meals for all. EPD is also working out the kinks in a program that will see specific offenders exchange clean-up duties and chores in the area for meal vouchers. The dining facility complied with EPD’s request to shut down for several days after the warehouse break-in on June 28. But St. Vincent de Paul employees have expressed some discomfort with the idea.

“We will work with the police department when it’s in the best interest of all concerned,” says Russ Shaddix, a St. Vincent de Paul board member. “We constantly talk to people. We don’t think we should condemn all of them.”

The facility, which has been at its Third Street location since 1981, serves an average of 350 people every day. Many, cook Mary Price says, are not homeless. They are elderly, on disability, or employed at the fish cannery down the road but unable to make enough money to cover all of their meals.

“We’ve served the children of a city councilman, of a police officer, of a local businessman,” says Shaddix, adding that the majority of the people they serve are local. Russ Shaddix, Larry Alexander and Mary Price pose for photo before the St. Vincent dePaul lunch. – LINDA STANSBERRY

“It’s easy to become homeless,” says Price, adding that she lost her housing for a period herself when her landlord passed away. Stories they hear from clients include the loss of support from parents, the ongoing issue of mental health problems or health problems and the inability to find work because of mental and physical health issues. St. Vincent de Paul hires many people through the welfare to work program, and they often need special coaching and direction in order to do their jobs.

“The fallacy is that you just put people to work,” says Shaddix. While the organization is willing to work with EPD and the community, the closure, he and Price say, was difficult. “No one has the answer. People don’t want to see people carrying all their belongings down the street. But there are no good guys or bad guys. We’re just people trying to help people.

He and Price add that staff periodically refuses service to disruptive individuals, and 86 troublemakers. Even now a picture of two of the people arrested with belongings stolen from Chinn’s warehouse is taped to a kiosk on the inside of the door. But the proposed voucher system sounds challenging to the dining hall staff, which relies on a barebones crew and a rotating group of volunteers simply to serve the needy.

“We don’t make people sit on the sidewalk every day,” says Price.

True, says Watson, but the community is asking their staff to be proactive.

“Their services are a privilege, not a right,” he says. “St. Vincents’ ultimately reserves the right to choose who they serve. … They serve an important function, [but it] can’t be as simple as saying ‘Outside our facility, it’s not our problem.’”

Along with using access to services as leverage, Watson says the EPD is implementing other steps from its April plan, including continuing to solicit proposals for a temporary day use area for homeless folks, the deadline for which is the end of July. (No complete proposals have been turned in yet, Watson told the Journal as of July 7.) Officers have conducted field interviews with many homeless folks in the area to determine where they are coming from. EPD has also implemented “environmental changes,” among them the chainlink fence, which Watson says are intended to discourage behavior business owners have found troubling.

Paul Ambrosini, of Ambrosini and Sons Electric, says the fence had an immediate positive impact on his work environment.

It’s going great, I can leave my gate open all day,” he says. “I’m pretty happy with the place that we’re at.”

Ambrosini says that the presence of people immediately in front of his business, with dogs and shopping carts, occasionally confronting employees and customers, had a negative effect on his business.

“I’ve gotten into altercations with people,” he says. “We brought our guns to work. I’m not going to sit in my office and be threatened by someone who doesn’t want to work.”

Now, he says, things have calmed down, at least for the meantime. The break-ins at Chinn’s storage area shone a light on problems with crime and transience in the area, an attention he says was overdue.

“Now they’re being policed, just like they should have done the whole time,” he says.

The break-ins, which occurred on June 28 and July 3, resulted in the arrest of four people for possession of stolen property. The warehouse contained items Chinn uses in her outreach work and school supplies for formerly homeless college-bound students. Community members have rallied to help clean the warehouse and to raise money for Chinn’s foundation. Watson says an investigation is ongoing, with several promising leads. An alarm has also been added to the building.

Linda Stansberry, Northcoast Journal




2 thoughts on “Mill’s parting gift for the community; a Business District crime wave

  1. It’s the old Homeless Whack-A-Mole game. Move them off the Devil’s Playground they pop up in Old Town. Move them off from Old Town and they pop up… Place your bets.

    Coming to a neighborhood near you.

    “It’s summer, that’s why there is a problem.” Cool. What do they plan to say when winter comes and there is still the same problem?

    There is more to the issue than “Moving them along.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Since so many suggestions for dealing with the issues mentioned here seem to always bring worries about the city/county being sued by the ACLU (or such) why are the County counsel and the DA’s offices looking at what is definitely not legal and what MIGHT be legal or to explore other work-arounds.

    No one wants either to run up high legal costs fighting court battles but remember, this is the same County that kept (and is still) fighting a losing battle about county employees overstepping their authority and making the life of a woman whose husband only wanted to die in peace a real hell.
    Anyone remember that? How much did that cost and what was the outcome? Last I remember the judge ruled against the County and had very strong language about how WRONG the county was both in what they had done and in pursuing the defense of their actions.
    So why is it ok to torment a woman irresponsibly and with what seemed like malice but oh, no, we can’t do anything the ACLU might object to.

    The current County counsel, prior to being hired to work here, had his own business—which consisted of his own desk in a large law office in Reno Nevada. There is nothing that I came across to show he had a background in running a county law department, let along handling cases where he represented a municipal entity; he usually represented the plaintiffs in suits that were civil rights in nature.

    In reading of the various attempted and accomplished shoplifting activities,
    perhaps after stopping someone from taking something, taking their photo and sharing it with other businesses so everyone can know who to monitor when they enter a business.
    Requiring people to check backpacks, large purses, shopping bags and such would go a long way toward limiting the thefts.
    And another suggestion for pro-active municipal action: Provide workshops on what to do to make your business safer and to deter criminals. If there are no police/sheriff personnel with this knowledge perhaps they could come up with funds and hire someone with the expertise to provide a day or two of workshops and lectures.
    The old saying about ‘what you don’t know’…well, what you don’t know CAN hurt you. Knowing how to protect yourself and your business should be on the agenda for the cities & county to help local businesses.
    Let’s apply some old-fashioned common sense here people!

    Liked by 2 people

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