By Mary McKenzie
Homeless solutions, crime rates discussed at HTC
The Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) had a full agenda at its monthly meeting on March 13. Approximately 40 community members heard from public safety officers and leaders about pedestrian safety, solutions to homelessness, and crime levels in and around Hillcrest. City Councilmember Chris Ward also addressed the crowd, and elections were held for the HTC board of directors.
Captain Rudy Tai — the new captain of San Diego Police Department’s (SDPD) Western Division — announced a new Neighborhood Policing Division which will focus on homelessness and crime. Officers from this division will work with the Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) to let people living on the streets know about available services.
Tai said he hopes to “make all people feel safe” and emphasized that being homeless is not a crime. Community Relations Officer David Surwilo addressed the needs of seniors and active involvement in the neighborhood, commenting that “a crime that’s not reported didn’t happen” and recommended using the website crimemapping.com.
Han Hershman of the City Attorney’s Office addressed how the S.M.A.R.T. (San Diego Misdemeanants At Risk Track) program also plays a role in helping the homeless find critical services. Sean Redmond, executive director of Stonewall Citizens’ Patrol, reported on the organization’s steady growth of its weekly patrols on Friday and Saturday nights. The patrol is well-recognized in the neighborhood, and some of the homeless population are now approaching these officers for help and guidance.
Councilmember Chris Ward then discussed his commitment to creating solutions for the homeless community in our neighborhoods. According to Ward, 40 percent of the homeless in San Diego are outside of the city.
As vice chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless and the City Council’s Select Committee on Homelessness, Ward previously held a meeting and invited the county’s mayors to discuss a regionwide response to homelessness. Speakers at the meeting included Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, who received national recognition for her city’s successful efforts to reduce the number of people without a home.
Ward was also happy to announce that the City Council recently approved a resolution opposing oil and gas drilling off the California coast. Ward encouraged attendees to use 2-1-1 (sandiego211.org) with questions about available social services. For city services covering dangerous sidewalks, potholes, or streetlight or traffic signal problems, he encouraged using the “Get It Done” application on the city’s website.
Zach Bunshaft of Congresswoman Susan Davis’ office emphasized Davis’ commitment to strengthened gun safety laws. Toni Duran announced that the San Diego swearing-in celebration of Toni Atkins as the new President Pro Tempore of California’s Senate will be Friday, April 13 at the Jacobs Center. Nick Serrano, representing state Assembly member Todd Gloria, spoke to Gloria’s continued legislative efforts for increased spending for housing and for the homeless.
After the speakers, HTC held its annual election for its board of directors. Incumbents Mary McKenzie and Jae Mohr retained their board seats after being unopposed for re-election.
Hillcrest Town Council meetings are held at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of every month at the Joyce Beers Community Center. The next meeting will be April 10. If you would like to get involved or have comments or questions, look for HTC on Facebook or contact Kath Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Mary M. McKenzie is secretary of the Hillcrest Town Council.