BOULDER, Colo. — The Boulder City Council has told police to start enforcing the city’s urban camping ban again after a five-month time-out, but police don’t want to end up being the bad guys.
Chief Greg Testa told his officers to use restraint and respect and urge homeless people to find other accommodations, but people who continue to violate the law will be issued a summons.
“People will say, ‘OK, I still have to sleep,'” Testa said. “I get it. I know that.” However, he said police are being put in a bad situation and there are few alternatives.
“The police department is part of the puzzle, but we’re just partners at the table in terms of talking about this whole homeless complex issue,” Testa said.
The city’s elected leaders have been urged to clean up downtown areas frequented by homeless people. They’re responding to more complaints after easing up for the past five months because others are concerned that issuing summonses to violators criminalizes the plight of the homeless, the Boulder Daily Camera reported .
Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said people who get a summons are expected to show up in court, and when they don’t they can be arrested.
Pelle said he’s worried that people ticketed in Boulder will head for western Boulder County and upset mountain residents.
“Once again, we’re using the police and the justice system to try to solve a complex homeless issue,” Pelle said. “They might see this as a solution on the front end, but they’re going to create a lot of collateral consequences, system-wide.”
The Boulder City Council is considering an expanded, centralized day shelter and resource center, but it’s tough to find a location that residents will accept and city officials say there is little they can do for now.
“Those who don’t want help when we’re enforcing the camping ban will be made unwelcome,” Councilman Bob Yates said. “We can’t accommodate people who are homeless and do not want help. At some point, our obligation has been fulfilled. We have a much smaller obligation to those who say, ‘Just house me,’ or, worse yet, ‘I’m gonna camp in your park, and I’m gonna disobey your laws.'”
Information from: Daily Camera, http://www.dailycamera.com/