Quality of Life and Marijuana
Last week, the Denver Post reported that officials at local homeless shelters believe Colorado’s recent legalization of marijuana has contributed to an increase in people living on the streets.
Kendall Rames, the deputy director of Urban Peak, a non-profit that provides services, said, “Of the new kids we’re seeing, the majority are saying they’re here because of the weed. They’re traveling through. It is very unfortunate.”
The director of Father Woody’s Haven of Hope, Melinda Paterson, said that the travelers are more demanding and difficult compared to others who are homeless. “Typically, [the travelers] have attitude. But we are really strict here. …if they are not respectful, we ask them to leave,” she said.
Colorado’s influx of people who arrive penniless and seeking employment in the state’s new marijuana businesses are straining a social service network that was already under stress, according to Murray Flagg who works for the Salvation Army.
Last summer Denver’s Salvation Army housed an average of 225 men per night, and this summer the shelter provided beds for 350 per night. An informal survey indicated that 25 percent of the increase was directly related to marijuana.
Flagg said that even those who find work in pot shops or grow houses don’t make enough to pay rent, and so they end up homeless along with the unemployed.
Tom Leuhrs, the executive director of the St. Francis Center shelter, said marijuana was one of the main reasons people come to Denver and become homeless. “The economy is not supporting them. There are not enough jobs,” he said.
Leuhrs says marijuana users are split almost evenly between those who say they use it for a medical reason and those who crave the access to a legal high. (See the full story at http://dpo.st/1l1vQER).
Although recreational marijuana use isn’t legal in Ukiah, we are certainly used to dealing with the marijuana industry, the transient population it attracts, and the crime associated with it.
Each month, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) submits information about local crimes to the Department of Justice in a report called the Crime Index Report. Our June statistics included 81 felony or serious misdemeanor crimes. Clearly, not all the crimes are related to marijuana, but many are.
The good news is that UPD is working incredibly hard and successfully solving the majority of these crimes. In June, we solved a whopping 92 percent of the crimes committed against people: robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assaults with injuries. We also successfully solved 68 percent of the crimes where property was taken, like a burglary or theft.
Our goal is to solve these serious crimes so they are less likely to be repeated.
But the Crime Index statistics don’t include quality of life crimes – especially crimes that come from the transients or travelers in our community like aggressive panhandling, dog attacks, drunk in public, shoplifting, and being under the influence of drugs.
On a typical day in June, we had three officers on duty and they responded to about 90 calls for police service; most of the calls were related to these quality of life concerns that often involve the transient population.
In June, UPD’s three on-duty officers started 341 criminal investigations (more than 11 crimes per day) and arrested 167 people (an average of 5.5 per day); activity included a blend of serious Crime Index offenses and quality of life crimes.
As you can imagine, just like in Denver, many of these quality of life crimes (and serious crimes) are being committed by travelers or transients who come to Ukiah in hopes of cashing in on the marijuana economy; but are instead cashing in on handouts.
Please, stop giving handouts to these transients. Handouts pay for drugs and alcohol. If you really want to help, donate to our wonderful non-profit organizations that work hard every day to get people back on their feet.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.