The San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office recognizes the concerns of the community relating to the homeless population. These concerns range from private and public property encampments, trespassing on and destruction of private property, discarded garbage, drug and medical waste, and mental health issues. The Sheriff’s Office knows the homeless epidemic’s challenges and The sheriff’s Office is (determined) to work to ensure the community’s rights are upheld.
The Community Revitalization Unit staffs two Deputy Sheriffs whose primary role is to proactively identify areas affected by homeless encampments and address identified problems. These deputies use the concept of problem-oriented policing to serve the citizens of San Joaquin County, as well as providing resources to the homeless population that may not be aware of these services or how to access them. These Deputies work to ensure that the community concerns are met before the need to call for a Patrol Deputy arises.
San Joaquin County Field Forces Division responds to community calls for service relating to homeless-related concerns. The Field Forces Division will evaluate the call for service and generally have a patrol deputy respond to assess the circumstances and specific needs of the call for service. If it is a complicated or ongoing issue, it will typically be referred to the Community Car/CRU for follow-up. The assigned Deputy will work with other agencies such as Behavioral Health, Code Enforcement, Environmental Health, California Highway Patrol, CalTrans, and non-profit outreach services to help provide the appropriate needs based on the circumstances. The Sheriff’s Office works in tandem with these agencies to ensure the homeless population is provided resources to help their specific needs at the time of contact.
In 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Idaho ruled Martin v. City of Boise. The case decision states that a homeless person cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property without adequate alternatives. This case was bound by the United States Supreme Court in 2019 and directly affects California. As a result, the Sheriff’s Office works with shelter resources in finding and utilizing shelter for homeless persons before taking enforcement action against encampments.
When conducting homeless encampment enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office will contact local non-profit organizations to ensure the appropriate and adequate facilities are available for the homeless population. The Sheriff’s Office works with the homeless to ensure they are safely transported to these locations along with the property they may have with them. Doing so complies with the Boise decision and allows for clean-up of these sites to occur.
California Penal code 602 is related to California trespassing laws, which fall under the Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction. Trespassing typically relates to passing onto posted land (no less than three signs per mile) where trespassing is forbidden (602(h)(1)PC) and refusal to leave private property after being asked to by the property owner or a law enforcement officer (602(o)PC).