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Elk Grove Citizen

Public Meeting Vents Outrage

Oct 12, 2022 12:00AM ● By By Patrick Larenas and Susan Maxwell Skinner

Supervisor Rich Desmond last week convened a community meeting that overflowed Mission Oaks Community Center with more than 400 citizens in attendance. Photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

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CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - Supervisor Rich Desmond enlisted the aid of law enforcement and County officials at a Carmichael meeting last week. Approximately 400 people packed Mission Oaks Community Center to vent concerns about public safety and justice.

Standing-room-only attendance was bolstered by outrage over a tragedy that impacted the community.

On September 28, 74-year-old retired plumber James Raleigh died after a brutal assault outside his home on Kenneth Ave.  A homeless 54-year-old, Darin Chastain, is now in custody without bail, pending prosecution.

Supervisor Desmond’s family knew the plumber as a close friend. “Jim was the type of person who would give you the shirt of his back,” observed Desmond. He described Raleigh’s death as a gruesome and senseless murder. “Jim did not die because of homelessness,” Desmond noted. “He was a victim of violent crime.”

“We have to recognize there is a criminal element in the homeless community that takes advantage of our compassion. There’s nothing compassionate with letting a person live with addiction.” To audience applause, Desmond added: “There’s nothing compassionate with letting this happen in the community.”

Desmond acknowledged that the board of Supervisors had so far failed to strike the right balance in action concerning the community’s homeless problem.

Deputy County Executive for Public Safety and Justice Eric Jones confirmed Darin Chastain had been contacted many times by law enforcement on the American River Parkway. “It is unfortunate that it takes something like this to bring [officials and community] together,” Jones noted.

Among challenges that tied law enforcers hands are conditions of Prop 47. The 2014 constitutional amendment reclassified many theft and drug possession crimes as misdemeanors, and authorized early release for convicted felons. The size of California’s homeless population and its criminal elements are among results. Jones noted that some transient settlements are now so entrenched that encampment structures seem semi-permanent.

Residents also heard from the Sheriff’s Department. Captain Matthew Warren said the Department has suffered severe staffing and financial setbacks for more than a decade. Since the housing crisis in 2008, the Department has had to prioritize very finite resources on what’s most urgent and dangerous, he said. “In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic decimated law enforcement, effectively shutting down the academies that we rely on to recruit viable officers.”

Deputy District Attorney Ron Linthicum said the homeless crisis was not just a law enforcement issue.  “A lot of these people want help, and they want to change their lives,” he explained. “A lot of times it just takes a judge to tell them, ‘Either you do this drug program, or you are going to jail’–and they [make] changes.”

Linthicum was encouraged by the large meeting attendance. “I see one giant pendulum,” he said. “I see you guys are ready for it to swing back.”

During the Q&A session, Sacramento County Disability Commission member Eugene Lozano noted hazards caused by people living on sidewalks. Their presence blocked pedestrians, especially those with mobility issues. “Eventually, we are going to have a fatality on Marconi Avenue,” he predicted.

An Ancil Hoffman Park perimeter resident told the meeting a homeless woman recently walked into her house; refused to leave; drew a bath; charged her cell phone and told the shocked homeowner, “You don’t own this property.”

District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna encouraged residents to maintain engagement with the Board of Supervisors. Board members had met with the Raleigh family, he said. “We’ve [listened] very carefully to those who’ve suffered. Believe it or not, this affects board policy…. We have a responsibility not to just one segment of residents.” To renewed applause, Serna announced: “It’s time for the pendulum to swing back a little bit to the other side.”

Supervisor Rich Desmond felt meeting attendance showed that the community was galvanized by the Kenneth Avenue tragedy. “You need to bring the same level of engagement to all local government,” he advised. “All elected officials need to hear your anger.”