Billy was a Golden Glove champ in Los Angeles. Now at 50, Billy is a drug addict, homeless, and living on the streets of Santa Cruz; camping in front of the post office. SCPD officers woke Billy recently and as he rolled over to greet them, he exposed a handgun. Fortunately, the gun was a pellet gun and Billy did not reach for it. He uses it for protection.
The U.S. Post Office is a homeless camp and ground zero for the Hepatitis A outbreak. Since my arrival, I have spoken with hundreds of locals including the homeless. Almost everyone I have spoken with agrees that problems in and around the downtown area are untenable. The problems demand action. Now!
We know long-term relief is years out, and permanent housing for our homeless population is a long way off. Besieged by the impacts of an epidemic of heroin addiction and methamphetamine abuse, often resulting in bizarre and frightening behavior, the community is tired and stressed. The homeless exist in a wasteland of hopelessness, despised by some, enabled by others, but ignored by most of us, who just walk by pretending they don’t exist.
The challenge: Clean up the downtown area while treating the homeless with respect. In other words, SCPD should police the downtown with passion, while demonstrating great compassion. What SCPD will not do is pass the buck. We own it. If we don’t have the resources, we will find a way to partner with those who do. To protect this city, we will celebrate those who help and confront those who abdicate their responsibilities. SCPD polices with your consent, not as a private army, but a force for good.
From the Clock Tower to Laurel Street, from Front to Center Streets, SCPD will spend the resources needed to ensure order. All people are welcome to visit this spectacular area, including the homeless, but SCPD and SC Park Rangers are fully prepared to enforce the law evenly, thoroughly and rigorously. It is also vital that all locals create natural surveillance by visiting the mall, walking the streets, visiting stores and creating a welcoming environment. I do so regularly both on and off duty. Please join me. Our downtown is remarkable.
City of Santa Cruz Chief of Police Andrew G. Mills