Sheriff’s Department’s Operation Inroads Persuading Homeless To Leave The County

San Bernardino County’s dispossessed appear to be in for a rough go of it this winter of 2022-23, which is likely to be colder than 2021-22, if the weather and storm patterns of November and early December are an accurate indication.
Moreover, a significant factor with regard to the region’s homeless is that San Bernardino County’s current sheriff, Shannon Dicus, appears to be every bit as indulgent of the more sadistic element of his department’s deputies who have been given license to persuade those who are living on the streets, beneath railroad trestles, in the nooks and crannies of freeway overpasses, beneath bridges and along the banks of the Mojave and Santa Ana rivers to simply move along.
Under the guise of “helping” the homeless in Barstow, Cajon, Chino Hills, Loma Linda, Ludlow, Mentone, Muscoy, Victorville, Yucaipa and other locations over the past two weeks, sheriff’s officers have gone into homeless encampments and shanty towns, insisting that layers of cardboard used as insulation from the ground as well as blankets, bedding, sleeping bags and tents which those who are destitute use to make it through the night are declared, in their words, “debris,” and discarded.Those underprivileged in Yucaipa are advised to avoid contact with the heavyset deputy patrolling that area if they can. If he is encountered, the best way to deal with him is to comply with his orders at once, as he is known to be particularly mean, and has the backing of his colleagues.
Upon being told to leave the site, those who immediately pack up their bedding and carry it off with them are generally allowed to keep it. Any delays will result in sleeping bags, blankets or cardboard insulation being confiscated and discarded. This particular deputy is known to use physical force.
The protocol for what the sheriff’s department terms its Inroad Homeless Eradication Program allows any possessions not under the immediate control, i.e., held or worn, by those on public property or on property they do not have title to or legal ownership of to be declared debris or trash, which can then be removed or seized and discarded. The disposition of any such items is left solely to the discretion of the officers. As the deputies’ assignments are to convince any homeless they encounter to leave San Bernardino County, stripping them of bedding – sleeping bags, blankets and in some cases tents or makeshift cardboard shelters – is considered to be an effective means of achieving this goal.
A sometimes-successful strategy for those transients who want to remain in San Bernardino County can be to find a place to secret their bedding, preferably in a secure place where it will not be discovered by members of the sheriff’s department looking to ferret it out, and make use of the region’s public transportation system for as much of the day as is possible. Many, though not all, of the OmniTrans drivers are empathetic to the plight of the itinerant population, and they will allow the disinherited to ride as passengers while the line is running, as long as they are courteous and do not disturb the other passengers. This is important because the bus drivers might lose their jobs if their supervisors or the sheriff’s department learns they are showing kindness to the homeless. Buses can be warm places and more hospitable than the streets.
Generally by the time the bus routes cease running, the deputies assigned to Operation Inroad are no longer on duty, having gone home, where it is warm and they tend to remain.
Yucaipa OmniTrans Route 319 services Yucaipa and Calimesa from 6:15 in the morning until 8:15 at night on weekdays
Rancho Cucamonga/Ontario Route 81 serves Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga via Ontario Mills Mall, running from 5:15 in the morning until 10:38 at night weekdays.
The Rancho Cucamonga to Ontario Route 380 runs from the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink Station to Ontario International Airport weekdays from 4:16 a.m. to 11:19 p.m.
OmniTrans Route 87 connects Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario and Eastvale, running from 5:05 a.m. to 9:52 p.m.
OmniTrans Route 15 serves Fontana and Redlands via Rialto and San Bernardino, running from 4:01 in the morning until 9:58 p.m. on weekdays.
OmniTrans Route 8 connects San Bernardino and Yucaipa via Loma Linda, Redlands, and Mentone, staring at 4:52 a.m. and running until 10:37 p.m. weekdays.
OmniTrans Route 312 serves Fontana, Rialto, Muscoy and Cal State San Bernardino, running from 5:20 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays.
San Bernardino County, like much of the rest of Southern California, had been dealing with a burgeoning homelessness challenge for decades.
Years ago, county officials began making a tally, referred to as the “point-in-time count,” of the region’s homeless on a yearly basis. Conducted on a pre-arranged day in January or February over a 24-hour period, government officials in coordination with volunteers would blanket the county’s cities and unincorporated districts, making a painstaking monitoring of the homeless, where they were, how they were fixed, their gender, their race and ethnicity, obvious medical maladies they might suffer from, whether they had recently found temporary shelter, their age, whether they were accompanied or unaccompanied or with family members. Based on those counts and with some exception, the general trend seemed to be that the number of denizens in the county who are transient and without permanent shelter has grown on a consistent basis.
A point-in-time survey was conducted in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the count from being carried out in 2021.
In the years prior to the pandemic, the homeless crisis in San Bernardino County seemed to be worsening.
In 2018, raw homeless numbers countywide were up 13.5 percent. Growth of those living on the street steepened by another 23 percent in 2019. With the 2020 count, the number was up another 19.9 percent.
County officials were steeling themselves for what they would learn when they reinitiated the homeless count in February, after having skipped the tally in 2021. Some, at least, anticipated the number would run near 40 percent over those who had been counted in 2020. As it turned out, the growth in those found to be homeless on the survey day was, surprisingly and refreshingly, low in comparison to past years: 6.6 percent. In actual numbers, that translated to 3,333 homeless men, women, gender ambivalent individuals and children throughout the county on the survey day.
Federal and state money is available to the county to address homeless issues. The county’s governmental structure, at least officially, has more than one agency dealing with the issue.
Those include the San Bernardino County Department of Human Services, the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, the San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Services and Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, which is the main campus of the county hospital. Also involved, at least on paper, is another county program, what is called First 5 San Bernardino, which is intended to look after infants, toddlers and young children from birth to the age of five. First 5 San Bernardino is supposed to render assistance to homeless families if they have children in that age group.
Despite representations that there are county programs to “help” the homeless, actually accessing those services for the bona fide homeless is virtually impossible. Simply finding where the services, or supposed services, are offered is for most homeless an insurmountable challenge. For those who contact any of the several agencies that purportedly offer the homeless services, obtaining directions on where to go for the services sought is maddeningly frustrating. Most of the employees of the offices in question are unable to direct those making such inquiries to the proper individual or office offering the putative services. For those who are channeled properly, the red tape they encounter is off-putting to the point where many give up. Those homeless individuals who are handed paperwork often find themselves stumped, as the documents they are being asked to fill out require input – such as addresses, places of residence and medical care providers – which they literally cannot provide. On that basis alone, several of the county’s departments will not process the applications for service the homeless are attempting to file.
It is estimated that seven out of eight homeless individuals seeking medical care are either turned away entirely or leave of their own accord before the medical assistance is rendered because the application process is virtually impossible to negotiate.
According to the county, during Fiscal Year 2021-22, the county directly expended $62 million on homelessness programs. County officials say $43 million of that was passed thorough to outside “nonprofit agencies,” which were supposed to make services available to the homeless. County officials, however, are unable to identify those “nonprofit” entities or offer a roster of the services they provide. In actuality, much of that money is filtered to the associates of county politicians, who are pocketing the money without offering the promised services.
While the county has an $8.4 billion annual budget, county officials lament that the homeless population in San Bernardino County represents an annual financial burden, direct and indirect, of $106,232,709, that being $31,873 for each of the 3,333 homeless subsisting within the county’s 20,105-square mile confines. The county’s homeless are, according to county officials, the “highest utilizers” of county services, more than county citizens who are not homeless. That claim is somewhat dubitable, as fully-housed children of school age, for example, attend schools, which represent a major cost to taxpayers, and are further consumers of all order of services, including free health and meals offered through the school system. County officials insist, nonetheless that on average, the homeless are provided with county services of all order, including healthcare, police service, emergency response and service programs intended exclusively for the homeless. When challenged by the Sentinel to provide an accounting of those services and where and from what entities they are provided, county officials were unable to do so. They insisted, nonetheless, that the $31,873 per homeless person cost was accurate.
It is for this reason that the county government has entrusted to the sheriff’s department the assignment of reducing the field of “highest utilizers” of the county’s services. The sheriff’s department has willingly, indeed enthusiastically, responded to being thus engaged and assigned.
An issue the sheriff’s department faces is the proliferation of steroid use among its deputies. It is estimated that somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent of the department’s deputies, primarily its youngest members, are regular and consistent users of steroids.
A common side effect of steroid use is aggression, what is sometimes referred to as “roid rage,” outbursts of anger and aggression or violence. Some law enforcement officers are among that portion of the population engaging itself in vigorous exercise to maintain top physical condition. A subset of those officers utilizes anabolic steroids to gain muscle and enhance their athletic performance. Steroids in certain doses can affect the paleomammalian cortex, a set of brain structures located on both sides of the thalamus, immediately beneath the medial temporal lobe of the cerebrum primarily in the forebrain, directly impacting mood and attitude. Long-term steroid use can result in mood swings that are difficult to control or suppress. The testosterone in steroids can further contribute to depression, paranoia, jealousy, irritation and the perception of threat, all of which can manifest in a roid rage.
On occasion, law enforcement agencies can make use of the aggression typified in roid rages if it can be harnessed for meeting the department’s objectives. For that reason, steroid use is often tolerated by law enforcment agencies.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has married the aggression that a relative minority of its younger officers manifest as a consequence of their roid rage with the objectives of its fight against homelessness, including those of Operation Inroads. By selectively assigning steroid-using deputies to the department’s Operation Inroads as well as its Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement Team, Sheriff Dicus and his department’s command echelon are able to reasonably assume that upon encountering homeless individuals, those deputies will be confrontational, engage in a back-and-forth exchange with the homeless and ultimately gravitate toward exercising what in law enforcement vernacular is referred to as ‘command presence,” that is, ordering those they encounter around.
One protocol which has been developed is to take advantage of the shabby state of the homeless themselves and their dependably poor hygiene. The deputies will exploit that the bedding the homeless generally have with them is in some fashion soiled or dirty, allowing the officers to characterize it as trash or debris. As such, if the homeless do not have immediate possession of their bedding, blankets or sleeping bags, meaning that they are not holding it, carrying it or have it in a backpack they are wearing, the sheriff’s deputies will seize it, declare it to be “trash” or “debris” and carry it off for disposal.
Also targeted in such operations is the cardboard that the homeless typically use for ground cover under their bedding. The ground is an excellent conductor of heat, and cardboard, particularly if it is layered, will serve as an effective insulator. If the homeless person protests having his bedding or cardboard seized, the deputy will escalate the encounter, often into a physical confrontation, one which carries with it the opportunity to arrest the homeless subject for assault on a police officer. Such confrontations are predictable, given certain of the deputies’ susceptibility to roid rage. The department does not discourage such tactics, considering them to be a useful means of effectuating the overall goal of prompting the homeless individuals being confronted to move on from the area where they are being encountered. By having repeated encounters with the homeless in this fashion, taking from them their bedding and insulation and keeping them on the move, the deputies set the stage for sending that particular homeless person onto another jurisdiction, away from the beat of that particular deputy. Coupled with having the homeless individual spend an evening or several evenings in a harsh night environment without bedding or insulation, these encounters often have the desired effect of convincing the targeted homeless person to leave San Bernardino County altogether, to, as the case may be, Nevada, Arizona, Riverside County, Los Angeles County or Riverside County.
Former Sheriff John McMahon laid claim to being a Christian. Despite that, he had no compunction against having his deputies use strongarm tactics on the homeless they encountered in the field. McMahon’s successor, Sheriff Dicus, is not constrained by any religious considerations, and his deputies are even more aggressive in their treatment of the homeless. The homeless are getting the message and are moving on. This is reflected in the slowing in the rate of the growth of homelessness in San Bernardino County, as evinced with this year’s point-in-time count, the first during Sheriff Dicus’s tenure in office.
Among the public in San Bernardino County, there is some difference of opinion, attitude and acceptance with regard to Operation Inroads and the action of the Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement Team.
Some county residents have had it with the homeless they encounter on the streets and in public places and they simply want them gone. Many do not care what tactics the authorities use in effectuating the removal of the homeless, and they support whatever tactics will work. Many have expressed the belief that the homeless are at the low station in life they occupy because of their own action, poor choices, disrespect for themselves and the values of society, and they deserve the circumstances they have brought upon themselves.
Others, however, feel the homeless merit compassion and understanding. They do not approve of harsh tactics being used in dealing with them.
According to the sheriff’s department, its deputies do not brutalize the homeless or any members of the public.
-Mark Gutglueck

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