Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore wants to erase homeless people’s warrants for minor offenses in an attempt to get people off the streets.
“This is a humanitarian crisis of our generation,” Moore told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “This matches any other calamity that this city or this region or this country has seen. It is, I believe, a social emergency.”
The proposal would scrub all so-called “bench warrants” homeless people incurred for quality of life infractions committed at least five years ago. The warrants were given for minor offenses such as drinking in public or blocking a sidewalk. (RELATED: Homeless Crisis Boils Over In Los Angeles, Residents Call For Mayor To Step Down)
The homeless are frequently unable to show up to court or pay the fees, sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars, which the warrants rack up.
“We have hundreds of thousands of bench warrants that haven’t been served in years,” Moore said. “We need to clear the docket.”
Homelessness rose 16% in the city of Los Angeles this year, bringing the total homeless population to 36,300 people. All of Los Angeles county has almost 60,000 people on the streets, and about 900 homeless people died in 2018.
The population is rising in spite of the $619 million L.A. spent in 2018 to combat the issue.
Los Angeles and other major Californian cities have drawn criticism for the growing homelessness crisis they have faced.
“You can’t have what’s happening,” President Donald Trump said in June, “where people are getting sick just by walking the beat, they’re getting actually very sick.” Trump was referring to multiple incidents of Los Angeles city employees developing symptoms consistent with typhoid after working at the Central Station near Skid Row, a major site for homeless people. (RELATED: Meet Rev. Andy Bales — The Man Who Lost A Leg Serving The Victims Of LA’s Homeless Crisis)
Moore’s proposal to clear homeless people’s warrants is consistent with his broader approach to the homelessness crisis, which he sees not as a law enforcement issue but a matter of public health and safety. The best response would entail more city investment in housing resources, sanitation and mental health, according to Moore.
Los Angeles police and firefighters frequently interact with the homeless, but the chief wants to see people in uniform offering other services.
“Where’s our outreach workers, where’s our mental health workers?” he said. “I would love to see outreach workers wearing a vest.”