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Sacramento Mayor Calls For Law Enforcement Crackdown On Major Crimes In Homeless Encampments

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants to crack down on major crimes coming out of homeless encampments, telling city council members this week that he's "tired of taking the heat."

"We need a new paradigm here, a new paradigm because I'm quite frankly tired of, as you all are, I'm tired of taking all the heat. I'm tired of it," the mayor said at the end of this week's city council meeting. "I'm tired of taking all the heat when we don't have an alternative and I'm tired of taking the heat because of the cleanliness and safety issue in our city."

Mayor Steinberg, who's taken a hard stance on getting the unhoused off the streets, said he's not changing his tune. Instead, he said this is a new approach with the same goal of protecting the homeless population by including law enforcement.

"I know my stance on this might surprise people, but it's actually very consistent," said Steinberg. "And while we are trying to find safe places for people to live, we ought to be very aggressive on getting out of those encampments people that are preying on others."

But using police officers to curb crime in homeless encampments might be a hard sell.

"Where it becomes difficult is law enforcement going into camps without training," said Bob Erlenbusch, the executive director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition To End Homelessness.

Erlenbusch says he agrees with the mayor's intentions but worries about unintended consequences with officers re-traumatizing people in homeless encampments.

"Rather than officers coming in and scaring everybody and not knowing why they're there, like I said, it's going to have to be well thought out. I appreciate the mayor bringing this issue up," Erlenbusch said.

The mayor says the primary responders to homeless issues would be social workers with law enforcement intervening when there are major crimes involved.  He says he's already been in talks with the police chief and they're meeting again next week.

"I've got to be real clear, I'm not talking about law enforcement taking over the function of homeless outreach," Steinberg said. "I'm talking about law enforcement taking a limited role."

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