Home News 'Our hands are tied.' Incidents of homeless violence raise concerns – The San Diego Union-Tribune

'Our hands are tied.' Incidents of homeless violence raise concerns – The San Diego Union-Tribune

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A recent scene unfolding in a homeless camp in downtown San Diego highlights the violence that often erupts in the unruly tent city, the helplessness of those who witness it, their reluctance or inability to intervene. It captures the frustration faced by many law enforcement agencies.

Heather Lezon, executive director and founder of Youth Support Coalition In Logan Heights, she and others at her nonprofit heard a commotion outside around 4:30 p.m. He said he saw him punch another man with a bloody face.

Girlfriend Start shooting From across the street, I saw a man in a vest enter the tent and come back with what appeared to be a long metal rod. She could be heard on recordings of her asking someone to call the police, and six police cars arrived within minutes, she said.

Still no arrests were made and the police told me that the case was closed and nothing could be done.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?'” she said. “This was like extreme violence with five of her fighting. Are you going to let it go?”

Lezon said officers later returned to her organization, which focuses on helping homeless youth, and told her more about the incident.

“He said, ‘Heather, our hands are tied,'” she said. “‘We need people going to city council. We need more police. We need more help. We need to be able to arrest someone. We need the voices of the community to be able to do our job.’ Is required.”

She said the police responded quickly to the call and didn’t blame her, but was annoyed to hear that there was nothing they could do. Former San Diego Police Chief Sherri Zimmerman said officers told her part of the problem was that they could no longer make arrests for simple drug possession because of Proposition 47, the 2016 ballot measure. wrote an op-ed against the proposal last March. San Diego Union Tribune.

Ms Lezon also said she was told by a police officer that she was understaffed.

The San Diego City Council took up the issue last July. by creating incentives For more officers to join the department. In the last fiscal year, 250 officers left the division. This is a 52% increase for him from the previous year, leaving 150 vacancies.

Reson said he understands the reality of the situation, but is still frustrated by what he sees outside the door.

“The elements are getting worse every day,” she said. “Allowing them to camp all day every day is not helping anyone.”

The incident outside the Youth Assistance Coalition drew the attention of the Lucky Duck Foundation, a charity focused on helping San Diego’s homeless population.The group first announced “Shamrock and the Shipwreck” Last month, we created a list to highlight what we call progress and setbacks on this issue, and recently released an additional “wreck” to the list for the incident.

“This type of criminal activity and lack of action to prevent and eliminate it is absolutely appalling,” said Dan Shay, member of the Foundation’s executive committee. What kind of society is a society that chases people with weapons?

Other local violence involving homeless people has been captured on video. In June 2021, security camera video appeared to show a homeless man hitting a pedestrian in the head with a skateboard in City Heights, while another security camera video showed a gas lamp. A homeless man was seen attacking a woman on the patio of the Royal India restaurant in the Quarter. last month. In other recent incidents reported on local news broadcasts, a woman said she was attacked with a brick by a homeless man outside the San Diego Zoo, and a homeless man knifed a restaurant employee at The Taco Stand. Arrested for attacking La Jolla in December.

Recent violence is alarming, but San Diego District Attorney’s Office Last March showed that homeless people are more likely to become crime victims themselves.

The report found that homeless people were 19 times more likely to be killed and 27 times more likely to be victims of attempted murder than people at home. They are also 15 times more likely to be robbed, 15 times more likely to be the victim of domestic violence, 12 times more likely to be the victim of aggravated assault and 10 times more likely to be the victim of elder abuse. nine times more likely to be a victim of elder abuse. victims of sexual assault.

Michael McConnell, a homeless advocate who has regularly interacted with people on the streets and in camps for about 14 years, said he had never encountered a violent incident or been threatened by a homeless person. .

“I’m not saying people shouldn’t use common sense,” he said. “If there is anomalous behavior, we should avoid that anomalous behavior.”

McConnell said there was more violence among homeless people than against those at home. He also said that over the years of homeless people across the county, the thousands of volunteers involved have never reported a violent incident from a homeless person.

San Diego City Councilman Vivian Moreno, whose district includes Logan Heights, sympathized with Rezon.

“I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Reson’s comments,” she wrote in an email. “The sidewalks along Commercial Street and other streets should not be homes. We hear about homelessness from voters every day. Despite historic investments by the city and county, the problem is getting worse. Clearly, we have to do better.”

Cities and counties are taking steps to address issues involving some of the more precarious homeless people on the streets. 44 bed shelter Supporting people with addiction and mental health issues on Sports Arena Boulevard. In September, cities and counties 150 bed shelter Located on Rosecrans Street, which also offers mental health and addiction services, the city and county worked together to open last month. safe haven Provide long-term residential care to 44 people in San Diego’s Veterans Village.

Reson said the same man who was filmed threatening another with a metal rod was still in her neighborhood, and she recently raped him with what she described as a medieval ball and chain. saw.

“And I didn’t even bother to call the police because it’s no use?” she said.

As head of a nonprofit that helps homeless youth, Raison said he was particularly heartbroken because of the impact last month’s incident had on them.

“When the incident happened the other day, there were 30 kids there and they were all looking at it on the railing, but it was no big deal[for them],” she said. rice field.

When two teenagers ran out in the direction of a man with a metal pole who was riding a bicycle and holding a baseball bat at the time, Reson tried to stop them.

“I said, ‘You guys, don’t go that route,’ and they said, ‘Oh, this is normal.’ And it broke my heart that they thought this was normal.”

The December 21st incident was also witnessed by Penny Nathan, who runs a property management company and recently created a pop-up event space called Event Warehouse at 1944 Commercial Street.

“A few weeks ago, when that incident happened, we were like, ‘What are you going to do? mosquito?”

Nathan doesn’t feel threatened by the people at the homeless encampment along Commercial Street, but worries their presence will harm her event business. , said he met with a potential customer who had come to sign a contract for the venue, but walked away after seeing the situation outside.

But Nathan said he also felt compassion for people living on nearby streets.

“As a human being, it’s very heartbreaking to see this,” she said. I am choosing to.”

Nathan said she signed a 10-year lease for the property in 2018 when there were no encampments in the neighborhood.

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