According to the Garden Grove Police Department, calls involving the homeless increased by more than 40% in 2015 over the year prior. While the Department has made focused outreach efforts to assist the homeless, Garden Grove Police Chief Todd Elgin believes part of the solution relies on police relationships and understanding of the homeless community.
“Establishing a genuine rapport with this community builds mutual trust. Without that, we can’t be effective,” says Chief Elgin. He adds, “The creation of this program is in response to a community and public safety need to address this situation, in this instance, by working together to find a solution.”
In addition to the patrol officers, the SRT will also include a full-time clinician from the Orange County Mental Health agency. Understanding that many homeless suffer from mental illness, the Police Department has maintained a long-time relationship with the agency.
The program was designed by Officer Brian Hatfield. His idea of an SRT for the Garden Grove Police Department came after he suffered a serious off-duty injury from a traffic collision more than a year ago. While he was recovering from his injuries, he participated in volunteer work through his church, serving the homeless as a civilian in plain clothes. He also has family members who have suffered from mental illness and homelessness.
While the team officially kicks off this month, Officer Hatfield and other SRT members have been conducting homeless outreach over the last six months, including two, large-scaled efforts to relocate occupants living in dangerous flood control channels.
The police department has also partnered with the Garden Grove Community Foundation to accept monetary donations to assist the local homeless and mentally ill. Monies collected will be used to provide motel vouchers, transportation, food certificates, and other items for individuals or families with immediate needs. To donate, contact Cindy Nagamatsu, Garden Grove Police Department Community Liaison Division Manager, at (714) 741-5760.