Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada seemed merciful towards the homeless and their advocates as of late. On October 6, he issued a department memo halting enforcement of the city's ban on camping and storing property in public parks. The Voice of OC's Norberto Santana even called it a "bold move." The city attorney recently declined to file charges against two homeless activists arrested for obstruction while filming an encounter between police and the homeless at Maxwell Park. All is good in the Happiest Place on Earth, right?
Speaking before a gaggle of geezers in West Anaheim this week, Chief Quezada revealed his officers are ready to re-enforce the bans again, just with a little retooling.
Residents gathered for the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council (WAND) meeting had about as much sympathy for the homeless as a trucker does for the last bite of steak left on a diner plate. "Those homeless are a bunch of losers," one man boasted. "Why do we spend so much time and money on them!" Another voice screamed an answer, "The ACLU!"
This time around, Anaheim's top cop said his officers are going to ask homeless camping out in parks to leave and even look up a shelter they can go to. All such interactions must be recorded by body cameras. "Every situation is different," Quezada told the crowd. "Some shelters don't take alcoholics." More hands sprung up with follow up-questions. "We have the ability to put them up in a motel room if we have to," the chief added. And if the homeless refuse? Citation time!
The chief's comments came on the heels of issuing a new memo to the department that same night outlining the enforcement revamp. It also followed the Anaheim city council unanimously approving an ordinance amendment Tuesday evening expanding the infamous anti-camping ban passed two years ago. It included a laundry list of misconduct in public parks that can be considered either infractions or misdemeanors. Quezada mentioned that the department worked with the city attorney to give his officers more enforcement teeth.
Police will break out the cuffs for public safety issues like carrying firearms, slingshots, making a camp fire, damaging property, gambling, drinking…and sleeping at the park after hours. Camping, bathing and cooking outside BBQ grills are considered lesser infractions. If repeat offenders get arrested and convicted, the hopes are that terms of probation will prevent them from returning to the park, making Anaheim as miserable for the homeless as Buena Park and Stanton.
Chief Quezada also revealed plans to install cameras at Twila Reid and Maxwell Park. They are slated to come in the next 4-5 months with the intent of expanding to parks all over the city. The live feed will be monitored by police, especially when someone calls in a complaint about the homeless or anyone else. And if that doesn't give folks Big Brother heebie-jeebies, there's more. The cameras have another special feature allowing for police commands to be blared to people over loudspeakers!
But wait? Where are the homeless to go when offered bed space by the police in Anaheim? (There's always the Fullerton Winter Armory to push 'em to, right?) "We're still moving forward with the homeless shelter," Quezada said of the county proposed Kraemer site. But even if all goes well on the November 17 board of supervisors vote, it still won't open until next winter.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2