December 11, 2012 | Back to: Opinion

Grass Valley Police sweep homeless camps

At least four individuals were arrested Monday in police sweeps of Grass Valley and its homeless camps.

Monday marked the first day of the Grass Valley Police Department’s sweeps of known homeless refuges that are expected to continue over the coming days, said GVPD Cpt. Rex Marks.

“Our intent is to go to the areas where they are known to congregate or camp,” Marks said. “The intent is to make contact with as many as possible as fast as possible.”

Nicholas Bell and Richard Potter were arrested at a homeless camp on East Bennett Street on warrants in Monday’s sweeps, according to Sgt. Alex Gammelgard.

“If we find criminals with outstanding matters before the court, our intention is to bring them before the court,” Marks said.

Two individuals, Michael Madonna and Edward Stephenson, described as homeless, were also arrested in downtown Grass Valley on warrants, Gammelgard said.

“We are sensitive to the fact that not all homeless are problematic,” said Chief John Foster at a meeting with business owners Friday.

“But if you are one of the ones that is spoiling it for everyone, you need to move on.”

However, Foster noted that evicting homeless people can result in them simply moving into another jurisdiction. Foster said he hoped the sweeps would encourage problematic transients to vacate the community altogether.

Officers’ first priority in the sweeps is to connect individuals to available services, Marks said.

“Taking individuals to jail is not the best answer,” Marks said. “However, when there are services available, it is important for them to take advantage of those.”

Officers also advised individuals they come across that there is a no-camping ordinance within the city’s borders.

Working in tandem with the police department are members of Hospitality House, the area’s leading shelter and services provider, as well as mental health professionals from the county, Marks said.

Nevada County has an estimated homeless population of more than 500 people, according to estimates of Hospitality House officials.

“We don’t want to displace,” Marks said. “We recognize there are homeless individuals that have no (alternative); however, at the same time, we have a number of homeless individuals involved in criminal activity.”

Four officers will continue to sweep on a day by day basis, Marks said.

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email crosacker@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4236.

Christopher Rosacker
crosacker@theunion.com

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The Union Updated Dec 11, 2012 02:39PM Published Dec 14, 2012 06:36AM Copyright 2012 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.