OCSD expands homeless outreach efforts to target crime along Santa Ana Riverbed

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OCSD expands homeless outreach efforts to target crime along Santa Ana Riverbed

SANTA ANA, Ca. (Sept. 12, 2017) – The Orange County Board of Supervisors today unanimously approved a resolution to support enhanced patrol efforts along the Santa Ana Riverbed and County flood control channels.

The action by the Board is consistent with the Sheriff’s Department’s efforts to expand its already-established Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) with an enforcement detail tasked with targeting crime along the Santa Ana Riverbed.

“Many people living in the riverbed legitimately need help and we are sympathetic to that, but we also need to address the criminal element there and the negative effect on the surrounding community,” said Orange County Undersheriff Don Barnes. “While the Sheriff’s Department is taking the lead on this new task force, we’re looking forward to working with our public safety partners to ensure the effort has a positive and measurable impact.”

The department in November 2016 founded the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and since then has had deputies dedicated to working with Orange County Public Works and the County Health Care Agency to aid the homeless. The multi-agency effort enlists the help of advocacy groups and nonprofits to offer resources and services to the more than 400 homeless who have taken up residence along the riverbed.

The Sheriff’s Department, in a collaborative effort with its nonprofit and public safety partners, will continue to offer a helping hand to those who have fallen on hard times, those battling mental illness and those struggling with addiction issues by connecting them with the appropriate resources and transitioning them out of the riverbed.

Expanding this program to hold accountable those committing crimes is the next step to better safeguard the riverbed and surrounding communities as the county works toward a long-term solution to the complex homeless issue.

Police agencies in the cities of Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Orange and Santa Ana will be participating in the enhanced patrols. Each of these cities has been working to address the challenges associated with the encampments. This new joint approach will be key to successful outcomes for the community.

“Being homeless is not illegal, and we are called to protect the rights and civil liberties of everyone we serve,” Barnes said. “We must recognize, however, that the flood control channels clearly are not intended for permanent residence, and the encampments create a significant problem for both the homeless and surrounding communities. In taking this approach, we hope to reduce the size of the encampments and mitigate the harmful impacts they can have.”

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