Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Citrus Heights police chief says ‘accountability’ is key to clean up city

Several shopping carts with personal belongings are shown behind a building in the shopping plaza at Greenback Lane and San Juan Avenue in October 2021. // CH Sentinel

By Mike Hazlip—
In an Oct. 23 address to residents of Citrus Heights Neighborhood Area 10, Police Chief Alex Turcotte said city staff is working with county authorities on ways to prosecute what he called nuisance offenders.

Turcotte said police are also working with private security companies to share information on individuals who have committed multiple “low level” crimes to aid investigators in building a case.

“We’re really trying to be creative when our chronic nuisance offender program wants to bring forth a person that’s a problem here in the city, that we have the data trail,” Turcotte said.

From March: Walgreens store left with zero shopping carts after thefts

One way the city is doing that is by strengthening the civil code to establish infractions and misdemeanors such as the recent shopping cart ordinance passed in October of 2022. The ordinance establishes fines for removing a shopping cart from the premises of a business without written consent. Offenders face fines starting at $100, The Sentinel previously reported.

“Is the intention to try and get $100 from a homeless person because they have a shopping cart? Not necessarily, what we’re trying to do is bring that accountability model to prove a crime,” Turcotte said noting the legal framework needed for officers to contact individuals or build a case. “Really, the logic is to give my officers lawful reasons to make contact with folks, lawful violations to where we’re not just hassling people.”

Citrus Heights passes ordinance to curb shopping cart blight; drops hefty fines

With a court system that is impacted, Turcotte said enforcing some crimes as infractions allows the case to move forward and helps authorities better track nuisance offenders.

“Instead of just having a case go nowhere, now, a case will actually create a record in the criminal justice system,” he said.

Turcotte said the Citrus Heights Cares campaign is another way the city is working to address quality of life and blight concerns among residents.

“That’s just a new kind of marketing way to say the same stuff that we’ve always said is we’re trying to put in investment, citywide, in beautification,” he said. “Those little minor crimes or quality of life issues that the criminal justice system lately has not really had the time (for), or frankly, in some areas have worked against us for bringing accountability to folks, we’re really trying to ramp up as a city to see if you’re not going to keep them in jail, if you’re not going to have a significant penalty, what else can we do?“

While commending offering assistance to people experiencing homelessness in Citrus Heights, Turcotte said accountability is an important part of maintaining the city’s quality of life.

“The best case scenario is they get resources, they get a roof over their head, they get treatment for their mental health problems, they get treatment for their addiction problem,” he said. “That’s going to help them, it’s going to help us. What we shouldn’t do is give them a free pass to not be accountable to the rest of society.”

Want to share your thoughts on this article? To submit a letter to the editor or opinion column for publication, click here

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)