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Citrus Heights police see continued double-digit increase in homeless-related calls

File photo. Personal belongings and tarps were set up along Sunrise Boulevard near Old Auburn Road in December 2022. // CH Sentinel

By Mike Hazlip—
Call data obtained from the Citrus Heights Police Department shows a continued increase in homeless-related calls this year, coming on top of a double-digit increase seen last year.

In a report to the City Council earlier this year, Citrus Heights Police Chief Alex Turcotte said the department had seen a 20 percent increase in calls responding to people experiencing homelessness and other related issues in 2022. New data also shows through May of this year, police have seen a 12.6 percent increase over the same period last year.

Turcotte said police fielded 3,445 calls for service in 2022, with those calls being for issues “commonly associated with un-housed folks, like camping, panhandling, loitering.”

In a June 7 email to The Sentinel, Citrus Heights Police Commander Jason Russo cited several possible reasons for the increase. One reason could be the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions that prevented authorities from disbursing people living in public areas, he said.

“During (the) COVID 19 pandemic, there were certain county and state guidelines that cautioned or discouraged the movement or disbursement of unhoused camps,” Russo said. “I personally noticed an increase in large camps in the State of California, especially along some state highways.”

An increase in public awareness as a result of seeing larger camps in the community and heightened media coverage of the subject could be another reason for the rise in calls, according to Russo.

“It could be the public may be less tolerant to what may be perceived as hazardous encampments,” he said.

The city’s campaign to mitigate blight in the area could be another contributing factor in the increase in calls to police. Russo said programs such as “See Click Fix,” and the Beautification Crew might be encouraging residents to report illegal camping and blight issues.

“Our ‘Citrus Heights Cares’ campaign is ongoing, and we want our community to help the city stay blight free, consider community clean-ups, and do their part to enhance the quality of life in Citrus Heights,” Russo said.

The commander said the department has so far handled 1,562 calls for service related to homelessness and blight from January to May of this year, compared to 1,387 calls in the same time-frame for 2022.

Police are actively working to divert resources to areas where residents have concerns, Russo said, and the Police Department’s Impact team is working with the city’s General Services Department to clean up blight.

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