Chico, Calif. -- The war of words is heating up.
As many people see it, it's the Chico First Community versus those who staunchly defend Chico’s homeless population.
Tuesday night's city council meeting went past 11pm, and a majority of that time was spent talking about the issues surrounding the homeless community, many of which people find controversial.
Chico mayor Sean Morgan had to call for several recesses during the meeting.
“It was passionate; I think passionate is the word I would use, and I went into it a little bit concerned,” he said.
The controversial issues are ones like the proposed shopping cart ordinance and renewing the sit-and-lie ordinance, among others.
Police chief Mike O’Brien said when the sit-and-lie ordinance was in effect, it did have a positive impact on the downtown area and the overall quality of life, but he said they are careful about how they utilize it.
“Almost every time, you will see our officers warn first before we issue citations, and certainly before we make an arrest,” he said.
The sit-and-lie ordinance expired in 2016 and is now up for renewal. It's an infraction, which means you can't be arrested for it, and it’s enforced through citation or voluntary compliance.
The first citation is $100, the second $200, and any subsequent ones are $300, but Chico Police say voluntary compliance generally works very well.
As far as the shopping cart ordinance goes, that's a misdemeanor.
You can be cited and arrested for that, but it is a low-level crime.
However, the cart must be identifiable and it must have a tag on it saying it's a crime to possess this cart; if not, police can’t do much.
More than 50 people got up to speak about just these issues.
Morgan said he has a lot of compassion for the homeless, but they have to follow the law.
“There are things with breaking our civil laws. We're just trying to match accountability to compassion, we have to have both,” Morgan said.
At the end of the night, the council moved forward with one proposal aimed at trying to discourage criminal behavior.
Regarding setting closure times at city parks, Chief O’Brien said the closure times need to be reasonable, and the public must have access to the parks.
He suggested that closing time be 11pm, but said that should be consistent with every city park across the board.
The council also asked city staff to add cameras to high-crime areas.
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