A May 18 memo that identified priorities for police action against homeless encampments got surfaced by a recent public disclosure request. A later list had a different set of priorities that included more purely urban encampments. These tend to be below freeways and visible from downtown highrises. Hard to tell where the focus is now, with so many clearances happening. Worse, the State, through the Department of Transportation, seems to have stepped up the pace of campsite clearances as well. Whatever level of coordination exists between city and state remains a mystery for now, but they seem mutually committed to placing all public space off-limits to survival activity.
Here's some questions that the document raises for me.
- With campsites busting out all over the city (remember, this is just a list of the "worst" sites) and the shelters full, where were all of these people supposed to go? My sense is that no one in the Mayor's office much cared, and that they still don't.
- Why was the City pursuing a clearance policy this aggressive with no protocols to guide them? Through the summer and fall, clearances were performed with little to no warning, no guidelines regarding possessions, no outreach, and no provision of alternatives. While the new protocols are quite clear on tightening the law to criminalize the use of public space for survival, they are equally open-ended and exception-ridden when it comes to the City's responsibility to campers. The goal seems to be to maintain the gloves off approach, while pretending to meet the concerns of advocates.
- This list was generated by Parks Security Supervisor Larry Campbell in response to a request from Sgt. Paul Gracy. Where did Gracy's orders come from? Tim Ceis knows better than to put things like that in an email. And why the sudden interest? The City's been saying that over 2006-2007, street homelessness went down.
- From the "This type of focus may create additional attention from homeless advocates," statement at the end, it's pretty clear that this was a below the radar operation. Yet it also implies an escalation. When did the Mayor's secret campsite clearance policy really start?