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Santa Monica Boosts Efforts to Tackle Homeless Problem in Parks

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By Jorge Casuso

September 19, 2023 -- The City is increasing police patrols and stepping up efforts to clean up encampments in public parks frequented by the homeless, according to a report to the City Council last week.

The City also is installing five mobile cameras to monitor activities at Palisades, Reed and Tongva parks in the Downtown area and adding lights at Reed Park.

The efforts -- outlined in the quarterly report of the City’s Homelessness Workplan activities for the period from April 1 to June 30 -- focus especially on Reed Park, which has been the subject of longstanding complaints.

At Reed, public safety officers (PSO) increased periodic checks of the park by 50 percent and "strove to make hourly periodic checks" for a minimum of 15 minutes or more if needed, the report said.

PSO supervisors also held briefings with the officers twice a day --- at 6:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m -- that lasted about an hour, according to the report prepared by Danielle Noble, acting director of Housing and Human Services.

The supervisors also are working with the Homeless Liaison (HLP) team to "deal with chronic offenders that are beyond the authorization/ability of PSOs," the report said.

The HLP Team and the Downtown Services Unit "continued to conduct public safety operations and enforcement activities citywide with special emphasis on Reed and Tongva Parks."

In addition, the Capital Improvement Program in Santa Monica's current fiscal year budget that began July 1 earmarks one-time funds of $200,000 for Reed Park.

The funding is being used to address "deferred maintenance, replace amenities that have exceeded their useful life, and install additional lighting."

The Police Department has also used the City’s Declaration of a Local Emergency to acquire five mobile cameras installed in three parks "for the purpose of deterring criminal activity and assisting in the investigative follow-up of criminal activity," the report said.

The HLP team also has conducted several "directed enforcement operations" in Palisades, Reed, and Tongva Parks, some of them with help from the Salvation Army.

During the operations, "individuals were contacted, interviewed, provided outreach, and advised of local municipal codes," according to the report.

"As is usually the case, most individuals claim to be new to the Santa Monica area," the report said.

During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2022-23, maintenance workers conducted cleanups throughout the City at least once a month, resulting in "multiple truckloads of trash and debris from encampments" collected and removed from public spaces.

A new section launched by the City's 311 Customer Service Team in late 2022 helps users access information about homeless services and "request the cleanup of abandoned encampments, shopping carts or biohazard waste."

During the quarter, "158 general input items were received, 161 reports of active encampments were made, and 28 instance of biohazardous waste were reported."

Biohazardous waste is defined by OSHA as "any waste product containing recognizable human blood, bodily fluids, or materials."

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