I’ve always been a big believer in that you need to understand the problem before you can fix it.
What is the problem? Why the recent surge?
Simple answer: magnets.
Not the magnets made up of metals, rather the magnetic pull that bad public policy can create towards a region and the magnetic pull that keeps the problem here where it festers and grows in severity with each passing day.
The perfect storm of bad public policy magnets was particularly present here in Orange County.
Predatory or unscrupulous rehab homes, particularly those in our South Orange County region, created a magnet for those struggling with addiction across the country seeking help. Upon arriving and after their checks cleared, many of these people battling addiction found themselves on the suburban streets of our neighborhoods, away from their families and support networks.
The second policy magnet, undoubtedly has helped fuel the fire and that is the fraudulently labeled State Prop. 47.
Many in the public policy arena in major cities like San Francisco will tell you half truths and selectively cited statistics about Prop. 47 and it’s profoundly disastrous impact on our communities. Prop. 47 – labeled: “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” is anything but safe and has been the source of a statewide spike in crime.
You see when someone finds themselves homeless on the street, they need to feed an addiction. With no conventional way to fund the purchase of street drugs their only resort is to engage in property crimes or stealing as it is commonly known. While this is nothing new, the laws meant to address these forms of drug use and property crime were fundamentally altered by Prop. 47 that made possession of drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine low-level misdemeanors as opposed to felonies as they had always been classified due to their severity. So, when an Orange County Sheriff Deputy busts someone for possession of heroin, even if it is tenth time, and even if it is outside of a preschool, most of the time that person faces is a misdemeanor ticket and release with an order to show up to court – that they will undoubtedly not show up for. Compounding this issue is that, let’s say the Orange County Sheriff Deputy busts someone who is homeless breaking into a car to steal something inside. Well provided the total value of what is being stolen is is under $950, the crime is also considered a low-level misdemeanor same as the heroin bust above.
Previously, law enforcement had the threat of a felony and jail time to hang over the head of someone convicted of possession of a highly dangerous and addictive drug like heroin. The felony charge could be reduced to misdemeanor contingent on the person convicted entering drug rehabilitation at a certified treatment facility. However, that tool is now gone.
So, not only do we have unscrupulous drug rehab centers luring those with bourgeoning drug problems from out of state into our region, we also are nearly powerless to force them into treatment and equally powerless to keep them off of our neighborhood streets where they are left no choice but to steal to fund their habit.
Many efforts in the legislature to fix the most egregious parts of Prop 47 have failed, however I believe that is because we have not made our case in the court of public opinion – as I am doing now. I am running for Assembly so that I can take this message to Sacramento, where I will draft legislation to mandate that repeat drug offenders face felonies if they do not seek treatment. Further, the use of drugs near schools and parks must face similar felony consequences if we are to keep the blight away from our children.
We must stem the sources or magnets that feed our homeless crisis if we ever hope to fix it. If we fail to do this we will keep seeing episodes like the one in 2018, when a judge ordered a homeless tent city to be placed next a school in my district.
While I am an elected official in Mission Viejo, when I heard about the County’s plan, I knew I had to lend whatever regional support I could to the city and the residents effected in Laguna Niguel. I spoke at an emergency meeting of the Laguna Niguel City Council and was joined by hundreds of other local residents that demanded a stop to this new placement.
While we were successful in halting this, it was merely placing a band aide on the massive wound. The fact of the matter is that by the very nature of the problem, we cannot control where our homeless reside.
The numbers are clear: we have pumped billions of dollars into resources for those that are homeless but the population of homeless people is growing faster than the people we are saving.
We need to go to the source and weaken the magnet that draws and keeps so many in our region. If we fail to do this we’ll keep merely placing band aides on the problem.
Please feel free to send me any questions or comments you have via email to: Ed@SachsforAssembly.com
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