Mark Mahaffey
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It is not a surprise to anyone that there is a problem with homelessness, and it seems to be getting worse. What might surprise you is that San Diego has the 4th largest homeless population in the country according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The lack of accessible housing or public housing partly explains why we see homeless individuals seeking refuge on private property.

If not addressed, the homeless can affect the quality of life in your community, property, or business. It’s the job of property managers to serve our customers and preserve their property rights while at the same time being compassionate,  and humane regarding the homeless. Being homeless is not a crime, but trespassing is, and having an understanding of the law is important in approaching the problem.

What Can You Do?

Trespassing is defined as entering the property of another without permission or the right to do so. Section 602 of the California Penal Code which pertains to private property trespassing states that to prosecute under this section you need to:

  1. A peace officer must ask the individual to leave; OR
  2. The owner or the owners agent must ask the individual to leave. (This includes Virtual Guards or See Remote Video Monitoring)
  3. File a “Letter of Agency” with your local law enforcement agency that will authorize them to arrest them for trespassing on your behalf.
  4. Avoid confrontations and maintain a safe distance. Use caution when dealing with them.

If the individual refuses to leave after being asked, or returns to the property after being asked previously, a trespass violation exists. If the individual voluntarily complies to leave after being asked to do so, a trespass arrest is not typically performed unless some other crime was committed. Regular law enforcement interaction is often not realistic, but scheduling periodic meeting with tenants and law enforcement can be helpful to discuss preventive solutions and for education towards long term solutions. These solutions include organizations which track homeless individuals to help solve their situations, which may connect them with community outreach programs.

How to Deter the Homeless

  • Design public amenities to discourage misuse.
  • Have plants at sidewalk level. If raised planters are used the sides should be at least 4′ high with there tops uncomfortable for seating.
  • Establish & Post Rules, and enforce rules of conduct for public use.
  • Install surveillance cameras to cover public areas. Have security personnel monitor these cameras and ask persons engaged in prohibited conduct to leave the property. ( See Remote Video Monitoring Below)
  • Do not offer food or money. It may encourage more panhandling. If you are encouraged to help the homeless, it is better to contribute to local charities, missions, food banks, or social service organizations.
  • Restrict access to sidewalk overhangs, alcoves, or other areas of refuge.
  • Lock or control access to exterior bathrooms when possible.
  • Lock or remove handles from water spigots.
  • Keep trash dumpsters locked.
  • Secure outside storage sheds or containers.
  • Lock or turn off exterior power outlets.
  • Lock gates after hours.
  • Install motion activated lights after hours.
  • Trim landscaping to eliminate hiding places.
  • Keep property free of trash, litter, junk, etc.

Remote Video Monitoring

Remote video monitoring is the use of the latest video surveillance technology used in conjunction with a security intrusion system which provides the system to be “Event Driven”. The placement of the activation devices such as motion detectors and other devices transmits the signal to our specialty video operators. The video operators are trained specifically to observe the cameras in ” Real Time” and assess the situation and take appropriate action. The operators are able to ” Voice Down” to the intruders and request that they leave the property or that the police will be dispatched, or make the determination that they are not a threat.

Stand alone video surveillance systems have their value, but are good only after the fact. In most cases the images are not suitable for investigation or prosecution. Remote Video Monitoring will stop the theft, or vandalism before it happens or before any significant damage  has occurred. It will also deter future aggression since perpetrators are generally repeat offenders, and will spread the word to their community of the deterrent.

We were pioneers in the use of ” Remote Video Monitoring “. We have used this effectively for over 16 years at car dealerships, parking lots, construction and landscape yards, and any area that in the past would require live standing guards, but at a fraction of the cost, and with extremely higher levels of performance and reliability. Contact us on how we can determine if ” Remote video Monitoring ” is right for you.