Orange County leaders Thursday announced that fences will be constructed along the county’s flood control channels to prevent homeless encampments in Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Westminster.
“We will not allow skid row in Orange County,” Supervisor Andrew Do said. “These projects in Garden Grove, Westminster and Santa Ana will aid law enforcement in keeping our flood control channels safe and secure.”
The fencing comes on the heels of several arson fires set last month in and around Jack Fisher Park and the Santiago Creek area in Santa Ana.
Gustavo Abarca Garcia is facing seven counts of arson of a forest and a count each of arson of property and vandalism, all felonies, in connection with a series of eight arson fires at the park and along the creek. Garcia was next due in court Oct. 18.
A home on River Lane was “feet from burning down” last month, police said.
One blaze caused $20,000 damage to a home, county officials said.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told reporters that a “very substantial” amount of the county’s crime involves the homeless.
“The number they tell me is a fourth or a third of all cases involve homeless people either as defendants or witnesses or victims of crimes,” Rackauckas said. “Countywide, it is very substantial.”
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who is running against Rackauckas in November, said county officials ought to be careful about going too far with fencing.
“You can’t wall off the entire county and turn this place into a prison or a fortress,” Spitzer told City News Service. “Let’s focus on what we need to do to help the homeless and get these people services.”
But the stubborn transients who resist services need to get a message, Spitzer said.
“We’re doing this to get people help, and the people who don’t want help will be arrested for being vagrants,” Spitzer said.
“I do support these fences, but I also want to warn people that we’re not going to build a wall around our entire county,” Spitzer said.
Much of the fencing for parts of the flood-control channels that are not accessible to the public are being cut down for homeless encampments, Spitzer said.
“This is to harden it with steel and make it almost impossible to cut with normal tools,” Spitzer said.
“I’ll do everything I can to help somebody who wants help, and if they don’t want help then they will be arrested,” Spitzer said. “There’s plenty of room in our jails.”
Spitzer faulted the leaders at Thursday’s news conference announcing the fencing for not talking more about efforts to help transients get shelter.
“I didn’t hear a lot of compassion today,” Spitzer said.
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