Billed as a public safety town hall, the event featured acting Northern Division Capt. Matt Novak and SDPD lieutenants Corissa Pich, Raul Rivera, and Lisa McKean, as well as community liaison officer Larry Hesselgesser.
Novak noted he’s previously worked on police gang, narcotics, and beach units. Of the Guardian Angels, Novak said: “We’re meeting with them in the near future and we’ll work hand-in-hand to ensure they are working within the law. Our goal is to make your community safer with any group that is out there.”
Novak said he’s well aware of PB’s quality of life and substance abuse issues “with alcohol, the many bars, and narcotics activities.”
During Q&A following officer presentations, one audience member asked why the unsheltered weren’t being ticketed for defecating on the sidewalks, and why that wasn’t considered a public health threat.
“That doesn’t meet the legal criteria,” answered Rivera. “It’s not against the law to be homeless or mentally ill. You just can’t take people off the street without making a (psychological) assessment as best we can in the field. Officers make detentions based on that consultation.”
Rivera added the standard police are held to is whether or not any particular activity is immediately dangerous to others.
“A lot of people need help, and just because they’re mentally ill or a drug addict, they can’t just [defecate] on the street and get away with it,” responded the audience questioner.
Rivera said homeless issues can be reported to email@example.com.
“It’s not a perfect system,” noted Pich. “What I can tell you is we want to help.” Pich gave firstname.lastname@example.org as the email for people to call.
From the audience, past Pacific Beach Planning Group chair Brian Curry suggested a change needs to be made on the Get It Done app.
“Illegal dumping is the category for reporting encampments or activities like people with bikes and bike parts,” Curry noted. “You need something more descriptive than illegal dumping.”
The Guardian Angels were represented by the new chapter’s president, Paul McBride, and Sarah Bonesteel. “We’re here to support crime safety,” said Bonesteel, adding, “We have a lot of programs other than patrols.”
“We do things the proper way working within the law on our patrols,” said McBride. “We use a non-violent approach to empower the community, and we are not allowed to carry weapons.”
Following the meeting one attendee, Mission Beach Town Councilmen Greg Knight, said he was impressed by the angels.
“I actually signed up for the Guardian Angels, mainly to see if it is an organization that we could use in Mission Beach,” Knight said. “I figure the best way to test the waters was to sign up myself and see how it all works. Whether it is the Guardian Angels, Neighborhood Watches, or the volunteer police group, we need to get people walking at all hours keeping a watch out on the community.”