HOT cops: Sacramento’s ‘homeless outreach team’ offers eviction notices, citations

Special detail expects to clear 240 homeless camps and deliver 2,200 citations by end of year

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the November 30, 2017, issue.

Sheriff’s deputies came upon the disheveled encampment under a bridge spanning the Arcade Creek in Carmichael. The three homeless individuals living there were known to authorities as nuisances, ignoring posted signs that warned against loitering, and returning to the damp plot again and again despite previous warnings, citations and arrests.

On March 21, deputies with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department went through the routine once again, arresting the three individuals for trespassing on private property, a violation of county law, and booking them into jail “due to the likelihood the crime would continue,” an arrest summary states.

By the end of this year, the three full-time sheriff’s deputies who are assigned to the department’s “homeless outreach team” are projected to issue more than 2,200 citations to those occupying illegal campsites in the unincorporated suburbs of the county.

That was before November 14, when the Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of two more deputies to conduct homeless outreach in Rancho Cordova.

While the team’s name suggests officers helping homeless people, its marching orders have been drafted to benefit a more privileged clientele. According to a county report, these “HOT” cops serve at the pleasure of county politicians and administrators who tell the officers where to go and which camps to roust.

The detail’s primary responsibilities are to address homeless-related crime and public concerns about homelessness, which come in the form of 15 to 25 daily calls or emails, according to an August report from the county executive’s office. In practice, that response takes the form of posting eviction notices at homeless camps, proactively seeking out nuisance crimes like the one above and partnering with other agencies to increase enforcement efforts, the report states.

According to the report, the detail is also charged with coordinating services for homeless subjects who are “willing to accept them,” but it’s unclear whether that happens, as the county report listed zero examples. Instead, the report states that “an effort is made” to send a Sacramento Steps Forward navigator to each encampment prior to its residents being evicted. The detail includes a boom-truck operator to clear debris once that happens.

That’s not to say the county doesn’t have metrics to evaluate the team’s success: Aside from the projected number of citations, the county expects HOT officers to have cleared 240 homeless camps and collected up to 48 tons of garbage by the end of the year. If that’s what’s meant by homeless outreach, maybe the team should have stuck with its old name—“transient enforcement detail.”

But, you know, branding.