As the Santa Ana River homeless village grows and Anaheim residents are increasingly denied use of their parks by the presence of homeless campers, enforcement of the city’s anti-camping is a front-burner issue. A group of residents launched an online petition on Tuesday demanding enforcement of anti-camping laws; it has already garnered more than 4,000 signatures.
District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno campaigned in 2016 as a critic of the anti-camping ordinance, denouncing it as intended to “push the homeless out of the parks.” Facing a potentially difficult re-election in 2018 as angst over homeless encampments and attendant crime problems top voter concerns, Moreno has been walking a tightrope on the issue.
Several days ago, he published a post on the popular social media application NextDoor.com in which he alleges Anaheim police officers are misleading residents into thinking Mayor Tom Tait and the city council are tying their hands in terms of enforcing the anti-camping ordinance:
“As many of you have posted, I too find it increasingly difficult to feel safe and comfortable taking my daughters to public parks where there is limited to no city presence and monitoring. This is a budget issue that has been ignored for far too long in our City. That said, as disturbed / upset I am about the condition of our parks and sense of safety, I am deeply concerned about reports that our APD Officers are inappropriately making comments and critiques to residents about the directives from our City Council and Mayor. Of course we all have the freedom to express our opinions and critiques, but to express these opinions while on duty or during work hours is inappropriate–especially where such opinions are not based on fact.”
We reached out to both the Anaheim Police Department and the Anaheim Police Association for comment.
I don’t know if Moreno’s allegation is true, but it’s a remarkably direct allegation from a politician who is skilled in employing the rounded, indirect lingo generally employed by progressives. He could have simply said something like “The city council is committed to the compassionate, humane implementation of law governing park use as it pertains to folks who are experiencing homelessness.” Instead, he accused the cops of lying to residents.
Judging from conversation I and others have had with APD officers, they do not feel empowered by city policymakers to enforce the anti-camping ordinance – which is doubly frustrating to them when the citizens they are sworn to protect are begging them to enforce the law. The ordinance was adopted in October 2013, but its enforcement was suspended two years later in response to complaints from homeless advocates.
“In response to community concerns, recent case law developments and to ensure we are providing our officers with updated training in this area, the Police Department, in consultation with the City Attorney’s Office is reexamining the application and enforcement of Chapter 11.10 of the Anaheim Municipal Code (AMB): Camping and Storage of Personal Property in Public Areas,” Chief Raul Quezada stated in an October 6, 2015 departmental memo.
The upshot of this re-tooling is to make the anti-camping ordinance effectively unenforceable. Hurdles were put in place permitting citation only if unless several unrealistic things occur. One of those is a homeless person camping on public property must “refuse” offers of services and shelter. Simply saying “yes” – without ever actually accepting the help – wards off being cited. According to several sources, homeless advocates coach homeless campers to say they’ll accept help in order to avoid being cited and removed.
In other words, the police don’t necessarily have to be ordered not to enforce; policy changes that render the ordinance unenforceable suffice to accomplish the goal. Next, advocates and their political allies can claim the ordinance is ineffective and should thus be repealed.
Moreno Supportive of Contracting Out Park Security
In the same e-mail, Moreno expresses his support for District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes proposal for the city to hire private security to patrol the parks:
“District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes called for exploration of our City contracting private security as a temporary measure of safety at parks with nearby schools and/or where there is increased criminal activity in parks. I fully supported this idea as a means of bringing sense of security and actual safety to our parks.”
There is merit to Barnes’ proposal, to which Anaheim should give swift and serious consideration. The City of Orange contracts with a private security firm to patrol several city parks, and Anaheim should consult with its neighbor across the Santa Ana River on how that is working.
Moreno’s quick embrace of hiring private contractors is interesting on a number of levels and indicative of how the homeless crisis imperils his re-election prospects.
When Councilwoman Lucille Kring and Kris Murray have requested re-affirmation of the anti-camping ordinance, Moreno has opposed them, saying such a decision must wait for his Homeless Policy Working Group to wrap up its work. But when his council ally Barnes suggests the city deal with homeless in the parks by hiring private security patrols, Moreno sees no need to wait on his homeless task force and immediately states his support.
It’s also ironic that Moreno quickly supports hiring private park security patrols while pushing for an end to contracting out park maintenance. It’s wrong to contract out park maintenance to a private entity, but it’s good to contract out park security to a private entity.