Mission Station will be working with the District Attorney on issuing warrants to arrest homeless people who have been repeatedly cited for nuisance activities and who refuse services, said Captain Gaetano Caltagirone at a community meeting at Mission Station on Tuesday.
He said that while there are fewer tent encampments, there are still individuals who are not accepting services.
“It gets tiresome for the officers who get on scene and they tell the individual to move and they say, ‘No, we’re not moving,’” Caltagirone said.
Caltagirone said the police and the District Attorney will be building cases against repeat offenders by using quality-of-life citations, such as obstructing sidewalks, urinating and defecating in public, and sleeping in illegal structures.
With a warrant, officers can arrest homeless people who have accrued enough citations. Before, he said, those citations were handed out with little effect.
“We’re going to be taking these (citations) and we’re going to be working cases on each individual case by case to see if we can create a warrant for the individual,” Caltagirone said.
The Captain said that once a person is arrested and in jail, it will be easier to find them services.
It’s unclear, however, what kinds of services — if any — jails can offer. And homeless advocates are balking at the plan.
“What he’s proposing is jailing people for becoming poor,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, which has been working to reduce law enforcement’s role in solving the city’s homeless crisis.
Friedenbach said that issuing warrants and arresting the homeless might get them off the street for several days, but they’ll likely end up back on the street — though without the possessions they need to survive.
“There will never be a ticket that leads to housing,” she said. “Housing leads to housing.”
Friedenbach said that the individuals who are most resistant to services are often the most vulnerable — often, they suffer from mental illness.
Those people, she said, are in need of more resource-intensive services like intensive care in a hospital and extended residential mental health treatment.
But, she said, “All of these options are off the table because the system is overflowing.”
Caltagirone’s plan was at odds with another homeless program discussed at the monthly meeting.
Representatives from the city’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program spoke about a project that seeks to keep homeless people out of jail.
The program is aimed at diverting repeat low-level drug offenders away from jail and into social services such as shelters, medical services, and education and employment opportunities, explained Robin Candler, a LEAD program manager with the Department of Public Health.
“The idea is to engage them in treatment instead of sending them to jail,” Candler said.
The program is being piloted in the Mission and Tenderloin police districts, with five LEAD outreach workers operating within the Mission. San Francisco received a $5.9 million grant from the Board of State and Community Corrections for the project.
If an officer catches an individual committing a low-level drug offense or prostitution, the officer can refer the individual to a LEAD outreach worker, who would then connect the individual with services.
The law enforcement agencies currently allowed to make a referral are the San Francisco Police Department, BART Police, and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
Jared Walker, a LEAD caseworker, said that since late October, when the program began, his team has helped about four chronically homeless people into the city’s new coordinated entry system, which triages individuals into city services.
“Because of their high-priority status, they will be moving into housing most likely within six months to a year,” Walker said.
In December, Mission Local reported that Captain Caltagirone’s crime strategies are decidedly old-school — and he has reinforced that notion yet again.
In an effort to fight car break-ins, Caltagirone is bringing back the “wanted” poster.
“It’s important who the public knows who we’re looking for,” he said. “And then you can contact us.”
The captain said the posters will be primarily aimed at car break-in suspects. People can expect to see them in store windows, the station’s website, and the newsletter.
“We’ve got nothing to lose to try that,” he said.