Two days after a contentious session of Middletown City Council, City Manager Doug Adkins sent a memo to council members outlining some preliminary action steps to address the city’s homelessness issue, which has aggravated local residents and business owners in the downtown area.
Last week, Adkins told the Journal-News he met with city staff Wednesday and started preparing a comprehensive response to the community concerns, and that the public would be updated when council approves the recommendations.
In an Oct. 3 email obtained by the Journal-News through a public records request, Adkins informed City Council of some of the preliminary thoughts and steps that were being taken.
Middletown police patrol officers have been visiting all known homeless sites daily, and detectives are looking for homeless people to find out how and why they came to Middletown. Police have also locked up the parks at night to prevent the homeless from sleeping there.
Nuisance ordinances are being used by police to address illegal squatting. Police are also resuming previous discussions with homeless advocates. The Public Works Department is working to clean up areas where homeless were living.
Also under review is reviving a former program that used jail inmates to clean up downtown a few times a week, Adkins said. It was discontinued due to supervision problems, he said, but is being considered now to show downtown businesses “that we heard, we care and we’re working on the problem.”
Adkins has also met with police and the Middletown Municipal Court about more arrests and potential jail time for charges like disorderly conduct and indecent exposure to get people off the streets who are causing problems.
“That will take some coordination between MPD patrol, the prosecutor’s office, the court and the jail. We’ll need time to work out the logistics,” Adkins said.
Other organizations contacted by Adkins include Access Counseling to obtain information about a proposed day shelter model for these people to go to when they are released from the shelters in the morning; the South Main Street Historic District residents and Downtown Middletown Inc. members to solicit their assistance and call police when these incidents happen. He’s also requested an update from Hope House officials on their new facility project at the Oct. 15 council meeting; and preparing a detailed proposal to create a Special Improvement District that would assess downtown property owners for additional services such as security, snow removal, etc.
Other suggestions, such as tying in the downtown cameras at Middletown police department, will take some work, time and thought.
Adkins has requested the city’s law department to research a Los Angeles ordinance fining hospitals for dumping homeless patients in the city. He said a report should be to council later this month.
“Part of that policy may be a warning that at some defined future point, we will start publicly posting videos of bad actors dropping off homeless. That will be your call as to how public we want to be,” Adkins said.
Adkins also suggested reducing some 2020 paving plans and re-implementing the Community Oriented Policing unit.
“In the past, this units was 3-5 officers whose sole mission in life was to stop whatever problem existed at that moment. Their goal was to foster a feeling of safety in the community so our citizens would spend more time outside, take notice of suspicious activity, and work with the police to address problems and criminal activity,” he said. “Whatever the hot spot was in the city, they went after it.”
He said the cost for three officers would be about $277,416 with benefits for 2020. That would reduce the proposed $3.7 million paving budget to $3.4 million.
Because this is a regional issue, Adkins suggested a political task force be created in which council members reach out to fellow local and county elected officials to discuss the homeless issue.
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