Sacramento County says the number of citations issued along the American River Parkway has increased since September by 10 percent. Misdemeanor arrests are up by 260 percent. And The number of felonies doubled, from 1.5 to 2.8 per week.
But rangers are no longer stopping to cite people for illegal camping on the parkway, according to deputy county executive Rob Leonard. Instead, rangers are charging people with infractions such as littering, having dogs off leash and other crimes.
Leonard told the board of supervisors on Tuesday that rangers ceased enforcing the county’s camping ordinance after this summer’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, which said punishing homeless campers was illegal if there are not sufficient shelter beds.
"They’re moving with greater speed, making contact with more individuals,” Leonard said of the rangers new approach. “We believe that's the explanation at this point” for the increases, he added.
Homeless advocates had hoped the court ruling would reduce the number of citations against homeless people. Allegra Taylor spoke at a board meeting and said it appears the opposite has happened.
"You guys need to do something. You sit and complain about what the homeless do. What are you doing for the homeless?" she asked.
Leonard says a decision to change the protocols for arresting people on the river was made September 5, the day after the Ninth Circuit Court handed down its decision in the Martin v. Boise case.
Rangers have arrested or cited 1,100 people since the beginning of the year. The county says it has helped find 25 people shelter, but could not say how many people rangers had contacted.
Supervisor Phil Serna says the board was not immediately notified of any changes to enforcement after the Boise ruling.
“We hear about it 10 days later. That’s completely unacceptable,” Serna said. “You’re not the ones that have to report to almost 300,000 people in the district” he told staff.
Speakers at the meeting, such as Betsy Weiland, supported the idea of more enforcement along the parkway. "They're a personal maid service now,” she said of county workers. “They have to come through and clean up the messes day after day after day.”
The county is considering having the rangers patrol the parkway 24-seven.
Board chairperson Supervisor Susan Peters asked for more information on enforcement action by the end of the year, but urged a return by county staff as soon as possible.
The board also declared a homeless shelter crisis on Tuesday, which will likely free up state money when the Sacramento City Council makes a similar declaration. The county says that money will help provide shelter for as many as seven families.
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