Increased crime connected to Rapid City homeless camp, PD says options available for shelter
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The discussion on Rapid City’s homeless has been at the forefront in recent weeks, taking a step towards communication Wednesday with Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender meeting with local organization, Mni Luzahan Patrol, a group aimed at protecting the city’s homeless. But what the group wants to do, the Rapid City police department says, isn’t the way to solve the problem.
Mayor Allender said in a press conference on Sept. 30 that he wants to focus on homeless individuals from the area after the city has seen an influx in homeless persons coming from nearby reservations. In Wednesday’s conversation, the patrol group suggested a temporary housing option that would not require patrons be sober, a requirement preventing some people from using many existing resources around the city.
“When you get people like this to congregate in one spot, it makes them very easy victims to others who would victimize them,” said Capt. James Johns, Rapid City Police Department.
Since Sept. 1, the department has responded to 11 assaults, five disturbances, and a stabbing that left a man with several wounds. The assault reports range from one person hitting, strangling, kicking, or fighting others – and in some cases, victimizing people while they sleep.
“In addition to the above calls for service, officers were dispatched to several intoxicated persons, suspicious persons, and welfare checks in the area,” said Brendyn Medina, Community Relations Specialist with the RCPD.
All instances are tied to a single homeless camp along Rapid Creek near the Journey Museum, something the department hasn’t seen in past years.
“We’ve always had a crime that occurs along the creek, but that crime was sporadic and it wasn’t clustered around one area,” said Johns.
Johns says the city has options, from the Hope Center to Cornerstone Rescue Mission to the Care Campus.
“If someone is intoxicated, we have room at the Care Campus, there’s a place to stay,” said Johns. “If you are sober and willing to stay there, there’s places to stay at the Care Campus too. If you are in a crisis with a small child, we can work through our system to find that motel room for the night.”
But each option either requires a person to be sober or willing to make a change, which the department says some people aren’t willing to do.
“Those are the ones that we physically have to make sure aren’t sleeping at the creek,” said Johns. “It’s not a safe place right now, it’s not a safe place tomorrow.”
The police department says they will always help find someone a place to stay for the night and the creek should never be an option.
“For years, police officers have met families who are in trouble, people who are in need of something. Often times its simply just a motel room and so there are numerous police officers who have dug into their own pocket and gone out and rented a motel room for someone in crisis to give them a safe place to sleep for the night,” said Johns.
A recent partnership with Volunteers of America allows for funding for that one night’s stay, without needing officers to use their own resources. He also says officers can work with individuals to call family members to arrange for the person to have a place to stay for the night.
Johns says, people shouldn’t be living along the creek because there are options available.