A new poll conducted for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Business Council Institute found that a sizable majority of voters countywide think law enforcement should assume a larger role in clearing out the tens of thousands of people who live on the street, despite court rulings and settlements limiting such involvement.
In total, 65 percent of respondents agreed that police should be more involved in cleaning up the streets “in order to address the health crisis that is mounting due to unsanitary conditions caused by homeless encampments,” the Los Angeles Times reported. Similarly, 63 percent agreed that homeless people “shouldn’t be allowed to degrade residential neighborhoods or block access to offices and commercial buildings, so police departments should prevent people from sleeping on the street.”
Of the 901 registered voters surveyed countywide, 39 percent said they “strongly agreed” with each of those statements.
“We need to make it illegal to live on the street and we need to start sorting people out, meeting their needs, whether it’s mental institutions or drug issues,” said Tim Russell, a Los Angeles voter who was part of a focus group conducted with the poll. “Whatever their issues are, we need to start addressing those.”
A majority of L.A. County voters say officers should have a larger role in cleaning up unsanitary conditions in homeless encampments. Most poll respondents, however, didn’t blame a lack of police enforcement for causing the recent rise in homelessness in L.A. County.
Among those in the focus group, there also was widespread consensus that it would be unproductive for law enforcement to be primarily involved in interacting with homeless people because it wouldn’t be a long-term solution. Still, a significant number of the participants felt that it should be against the law to sleep on public property.
The results of both the poll and the focus group point to rising public anger and a sense of helplessness over encampments, as the homeless population has skyrocketed to nearly 60,000 countywide and government has struggled to keep up with the growing number of tents and makeshift shelters that have spread into almost every corner of L.A.