Oct 11, 2016

"Even if you have meager money, you are welcome here. It is about whether you are lifting Eureka up or tearing it down."

Eureka Police Chief Andy Mills has been in Eureka for three years now. I asked to meet with him on October 7. Initially, my plan was to thank him for the many programs he has implemented such as the Graffiti Abatement program, the pan handling ordinance, the vehicle abatement program and the efforts that EPD has made in helping businesses and residents like me who have seen some improvement in our quality of life.

I thanked Chief Mills and told him that anyone can talk about community policing but I have seen first hand the outreach he has personally done in the community and his officers have with programs like Coffee with a Cop; the block parties, the patrols in Old Town, where I and many others work and live.

There is a problem area on 2nd Street between H and I that I have been now trying to get the City of Eureka to address because the overgrown weeds and garden have become an environmental and safety hazard. The City of Eureka has cleaned up the area twice with tons of trash but what needs to be done is to trim the greenery so camps and drunks don't hang out. It is an area that all the neighboring businesses in that lot and some property owners have spoken to Chief Mills about and I have written about twice on my blog.

Chief Mills and I took a walk from the police station on 6th and C down Fifth Street to I then to 2nd Street and I and back to the police station. 

"I am telling people that just moved up here thinking they can get a trimming job and instead hanging out all day to go home," said Chief Mills. The people he addresses are not working or looking for a job, they do not care if they follow laws, they add to the frustration of the public who then direct it to the homeless in general and they are not local, he said. "No grower is going to want to hire you."

"Maybe 50 of these people are homeless, the rest of them continue to come."

Chief Mills told me about a guy who just moved up here from Indiana. In his late 50s, hanging out in his parked van on a street. "His leg was all messed up." When Chief Mills asked him what happened, he said he left Indiana because he was shot at by an AK 47 because of "a misunderstanding." When Chief Mills asked him why, he would not answer. Asking him further if it had anything to do with marijuana or drugs, the guy became defensive.

"The City and County are working better than ever before," said Chief Mills. "As you know well from covering the courts, there are a small group of people who just want to stick it to everyone else." It is a small group of these repeat, chronic offenders that are making it difficult for others down on their luck.

"It is time for the rest of the city to say, enough is enough."

As we walked, I was surprised how many people Chief Mills knew by name, their circumstances, he checked up on some people, who had taken advantage of services offered and told them to "keep up the good work and progress."

"Even if you have meager money, you are welcome here, " said Chief Mills. "It is about whether you are lifting Eureka up or tearing it down."

"This is a generous community," said Chief Mills. "When you take advantage of people multiple times, that is when people get tired."

Using the example of temporary camps, Chief Mills said, "the amount of trash and junk grows daily." Where is it coming from? Be respectful, clean up your trash.

While it is volunteers that staff both the grafitti and traffic abatement programs; the tows cost the taxpayers. Both programs were a result of budget cuts to EPD and a creative effort to address these chronic issues in Eureka.

Bringing up another example of when Chief Mills was down by the Waterfront, he told me he saw some young and able bodied people hanging out there in the middle of the day and had been doing this regularly. Inquired if he could help them, what were they doing there? He got a response, "Are you telling us we cannot hang out here?" Chief Mills said, "No. I am asking you why you are here, why are you not out looking for a job. Can I help you in any way?"

Chief Mills said he is fighting for those that are trying to get back on their feet and when people like the ones above result in constant complaints, it makes it harder for the police, the City, the County who do want to help.

One of the future efforts EPD is going to implement is assigning a neighborhood officer to different neighborhoods and that officer may not be there all the time but will be "a conduit of information between the community and EPD."

"We need volunteers to come and work with the officer, to check in every day, to check emails."

(After my walk with Chief Andy Mills on October 7 in the morning, I found a dirty blanket covered   with human waste outside the entrance of the Fifth street Starbucks and some trash left outside, this is one of the cleaner days)

(This is on Fifth street between F and G as Chief Mills and I took our walk on October 7)

(Two men just hanging out in the parking lot across from the DHHS administration building on Fifth Street, they had been smoking)

(In the alley behind a business on 4th Street and C in Eureka. The woman was camping, said she was waiting for St. Vincent to open up. Both the guys are on probation, one she just met, just hanging out and smoking, one of them is on probation after being convicted for arson)

(Chief Mills and I saw five parked cars on Second Street in Old Town, every single one with valuables visibly displayed and left in every single car, including a wallet and a toolbox)

1 comment:

  1. I wish they'd clean up the giant wall of graffitti along Broadway where they cut off the front of the cemetery and left a giant pink concrete wall... it's covered in Big Black Grafitti and looks horrible