Petaluma police plan to clear homeless encampment along Lynch Creek Trail

POSTED: 2/25/2019

Author: Andrew Beale

Publication: Press Democrat

In the next few weeks, Petaluma police plan to clear a large homeless encampment along Lynch Creek Trail north of downtown following complaints from area residents.

Petaluma Police Lt. Tim Lyons searched the area on a golf cart Friday afternoon, mapping the location.

“I’m just out here trying to get an idea of how big the problem is,” Lyons said.

Lyons said the complaint reports about the encampment range from alleged drug use and theft to illegal garbage dumping in the creek. He said after the department posts notices on campsites people will have 72 hours to leave before police remove them. The police department also is working to secure help from specialized cleanup crews who can deal with hazardous waste such as used needles, he said.

When police eventually contact homeless people taking shelter near the Lynch Creek Trail, officers plan to bring them help from local homeless services organizations, Lyons said.

The efforts to clean up the camp are complicated by the department’s loss of its Homeless Outreach Services Team, Petaluma Police Chief Ken Savano said in a prepared statement. The two officers on the team had to be reassigned to patrol because of staffing shortages, he said.

“Our model has always been to try and provide financial, shelter, mental health and substance abuse services first and enforcement second,” Savano said in the statement. “To address the underlying issues is much more effective for long-term problem solving than simple and multiple arrests.”

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