California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 13

Santa Ana officers out on daily patrol through the city’s Civic Center. Prior to the launch of the H.E.A.R.T. program, a majority of the calls officers received resulted in fines resulting from the city’s no camping ordinance. In addition, the Santa Ana PD officers who patrolled the Civic Center did so in patrol vehicles. Chief Rojas understands that in order for this program to work successfully, Santa Ana PD needed to re-evaluate their current enforcement process. Officers underwent special training that prepared them to work with the homeless and mentally ill on a day-to-day basis. Chief Rojas explained that “realizing that the vehicles acted as a barrier to those we were trying to help was a wakeup call.” Since the program’s implementation, the eight officers currently patrolling the Civic Center do so on foot and spend a majority of their shift conversing with the homeless and building relationships. The shift from enforcement to outreach has benefited the department in multiple ways. “We’ve been able to seek assistance from the homeless on some of our cases.” Chief Rojas says. “Having the partnership with local non-profits assists our officers in connecting those who are willing to utilize the right resources to help find them stable homes and get them permanently off the street. It’s not always easy,” continues Chief Rojas, “sometimes you have to face the truth, which is, not everyone wants to be helped.” Since November of 2012, H.E.A.R.T., along with the city’s Mental Health and Social Security Departments, local non-profits, and some generous donations from private citizens, has been able to place 60 individuals in permanent living accommodations. Furthermore, the partnership was able register over 590 people into their agency data base, which allows officers to better monitor and assist the homeless population. One of the most recent success stories involves a pregnant woman who officers spoke with in the Civic Center. Upon explaining the H.E.A.R.T. program with her they discovered that her husband and four small children had been residing at the Civic Center for two days. H.E.A.R.T. members immediately sought assistance from their partners and quickly learned that the family desired to be relocated back to Arizona where family had agreed to assist them out of homelessness. It was the partnership with Social Services that allowed the family of six to have fully-paid transportation back to Arizona within a matter of hours. For additional information regarding the H.E.A.R.T. program, you can contact Corporal Michael Kuplast at (714) 245-8249. ? FALL 2013 | California Police Chief 13