Trying To Figure Out The Cops

I have not had any direct interaction with the police here in San Diego.  I rarely had contact with the police in Nashville.   I keep my nose clean.  Still, the cops are out there on the streets, doing their thing, whatever that may be, with the homeless.

I assume that for the most part the police on the streets are just doing what they are told, and are not really being paid to think – as the saying goes.  Police supervisors tell the police what to do, and there is someone else telling the supervisors what to tell the police.  And “those” people are usually either politicians or civic leaders.  Of course, if you are not a politician, the only way to be a civic leader is to have lots of money and invest it in the city you wish to influence.  Of course being friends with a civic leader is just as good, seeing as people on that level are always doing favors for each other.

Now, the legal ruling so far, as the homeless have been instructed by the police, is that the homeless are allowed to sleep on the sidewalks from 9pm to 6am.   But, lately I’ve noticed that when the police roll on the homeless, they do so about 5:30am.   If they waited until 6am to interact with the homeless, there would be few if any homeless available for them.   It becomes more clear that the cops aren’t really concerned over getting the homeless off the sidewalks by 6am, but with harassing the homeless.   Harassing the homeless does achieve at least partial goals of the police, but such gains are usually temporary.

Most homeless people only wish to be left alone, and being approached by the police unnerves them, (all the more leading me to believe that many if not most homeless people have Aspergers Syndrome.)

Homeless people will vacate an area they’ve been camping at, in reaction to being approached by the police, even if that interaction was minimal and consisted of nothing but a short conversation.  And those homeless will not return, choosing instead to find another area in which to camp.

There is one particular city block downtown where the homeless have lived/slept for a long long time.  This particular city block is owned by the federal government, and as experience has shown, authorities on the federal level don’t involve themselves much in the local actions of harassing the homeless.  To some extent this also happens on the State level.  

Being that the city block in question is owned by the feds, and the feds don’t complain about the homeless to local officials, the homeless have learned that the sidewalks around this block are usually safe from local police.

On both the West and East side of this city block the homeless line up against the property fence and set up their camps. The north and south sides of the block get so much automobile and foot traffic that camping on those sides is less than practical.

The east side of the block hosts nearly all women and a few elderly men.  The west side hosts mostly men and the drug addicts and the majority of the mentally ill.   I imagine this clear division between the homeless types evolved over time.  Birds of a feather, and all that.

It is on the west side of the block where most of the late night rowdiness happens, the noise and fights and general trouble making takes place.  I camp across the street from the west side of that city block.  only about a half dozen homeless people camp on the side where I do.

Most of the rest of that block is privately owned and there is a sprinkler system on the grounds there that is set on auto.  So every couple of hours the water is turned on.  A person will inevitably get wet if they camped in that area.

So, yesterday morning, Monday morning, at about 5:30am, the cops rolled up across the street.  I had awakened about 15 minutes earlier and was in the process of packing up the last of my camping gear. The cops paid no attention to me as I loaded up my cart and walked off.  As I was leaving I watched as the several cops approach people on that side of the street.

Later that night, last night, when I returned to set up camp. I was alarmed to find the area all but abandoned.  Although several homeless people’s belongings remained, there were only 3 people on that side getting ready to camp.  I wondered to myself if maybe the rest of them were hauled off the jail or had otherwise been run off.  So, instead of setting up my tent, I just stood watching the area, hoping to get some insight into what happened and whether it would be safe to camp there.

It was already after 9pm so everyone should have been tented up by then.  To add to my confusion, the 6 people who camp on my side of the streets were still there, and secure as ever.  I tried to ask one of them what was going on, but the reply I got was incomprehensible.

I decided to then walk around the block to better assess the situation.   Again, from one corner to the next of the sidewalk is usually lined with homeless people sleeping.  That happens on both sides of the block.  When I got to the east side where most of the women sleep, it was also nearly abandoned. And that side is usually more packed than the other.

 Eventually I met up with an older couple, probably in their late 60’s, and they were very knowledgeable and courteous.   They told me that the harassment of the cops results in a thinning of the herd, as it were.  When the area gets to the point of being over crowded, the cops come by, knowing that their presence intimidates many of the homeless, and that causes the homeless to scatter.  It does seem that overcrowding does increase the likelihood of violence among the homeless. (over crowded tends to increase violence in every social group, not just with the homeless.)

After hearing this, I returned to my spot and set up camp and had a relatively quiet night.  There was no arguing or fighting in my particular area (although I could hear some in the distance).  The only real problem was the heat which made being in the tent uncomfortable.  There is a separate piece of material that goes over the top of the tent and last night, for the first time, I went without putting that on the tent.  Not doing so did mean that people could then look into the tent as see me as they walked by, but I would be a bit cooler.

That’s the thing about San Diego.  The actual temperature may be mild, but depending on whether you get a breeze or not, makes a difference in whether you over heat or not.

This morning I woke up about 5:20am, packed up my camp and headed towards the McDonalds without seeing one cop.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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