Transients, Crime and Your Safety
As the weather gets nicer, transients tend to become more visible, and that’s been the case in Ukiah lately. I’ve written about the transient problem before, but I think it’s important to talk about it again because I still see well-meaning people giving handouts that encourage bad behavior.
When I talk about transients, I am referring to people who chose a nomadic lifestyle that often includes using alcohol and illicit drugs. Under the influence of these substances, transients commit crimes such as panhandling, burglary, and assault; and they sometimes allow their aggressive, poorly controlled dogs to harm others. These behaviors affect the safety of people in Ukiah and put our police officers at risk.
I understand why kind-hearted people give to those who are less fortunate than themselves and I applaud that. But if you really want to help our community, many wonderful non-profit organizations could put your dollars to good use helping people who are working hard to get back on their feet. When I talk about transients, I am not referring to people who are clean and sober, but who have temporarily found themselves homeless as a result of a tough economy or some bad choices. Transients choose not to seek services provided by homeless shelters and food pantries, often because these places require recipients to be sober and non-violent.
The more people give to transients, the more they encourage the problems that come with this lifestyle. This translates into more violence in our city and police time spent breaking up fights among transients and arresting transients for the crimes they’ve committed.
What’s the best way to handle the situation? First, stop providing handouts. Giving money to transients does not help our community and it puts you in direct contact with people who may be dangerous. Transients use money to buy alcohol, methamphetamine, or other drugs. The use of alcohol and drugs leads to violence. If transients can’t afford alcohol and drugs, our community would be safer.
It’s important to be aware of your surroundings, and while Ukiah is a safe place compared to many cities, it’s always a good idea to follow these basic guidelines:
- Avoid dark, vacant, or deserted areas. If you are followed or see suspicious activity, move to a lighted area or create a commotion.
- Avoid walking or jogging alone at night, if possible.
- Dress in clothes and shoes that allow you to move quickly.
- If you carry a purse, briefcase, or backpack, only keep a small amount of cash in it. If possible, do not carry a purse.
- Carry keys, identification, and anything else of value on your person.
- Carry a noise-making device, such as a whistle, and have it ready to use.
- Be alert, observant, and aware of your surroundings and other people on the street with you.
The Ukiah Police Department is working with local social service agencies and community-based organizations to intervene in the transient cycle of violence by addressing the underlying problems that affect transients in our community through the Chronic Users Systems of Care program. Our department works with the Ford Street Project, Hillside Health Center, Ukiah Valley Medical Center, and others to reduce behaviors that are unsafe and unhealthy among those who bounce from service to service.
Rather than providing money handouts; if you’d like to help those less fortunate, please give to organizations such as Plowshares, the Food Bank, the Ukiah Community Center and the Buddy Eller Center. These local organizations help meet basic needs such as food, shelter and human dignity. Key services include: HOT MEALS (Plowshares, 1346 S. State); GROCERIES (UCC Food Bank, 888 N. State); ESSENTIAL SERVICES (UCC Services, 888 N. State); SHELTER (Buddy Eller Center, 201 Brush St).
Instead of money handouts, giving your donations to the agencies providing direct services to the homeless population will assure that your dollars are spent on assistance, not alcohol and drugs.
If you observe illegal activity by transients (or anyone else), please report that activity to our department as soon as possible. For in-progress emergencies please all the Ukiah Police Department at 911 or 463-6262. Or provide our officers with crime tips at www.ukiahpolice.com.
Transients come to Ukiah for a variety of reasons: our community is known for its generosity. Transients tell us it’s easy to obtain welfare services, and most transients say that the main reason they make their way to Ukiah is because of marijuana. While not giving handouts to transients won’t solve all our transient problems, it will help.
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.