Arcata safety force finalizing efforts

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – With its one-year expiration date looming, last week’s eighth meeting of Arcata’s Public Safety Task Force saw a bare quorum of the group – six of 11 members – narrow its goals, prepare for its final report to the Arcata City Council and lay the groundwork for a possible permanent public safety committee to succeed it.

A brief primer on street conditions was delivered during public comment by a recently minted citizen. A man who’d moved to Arcata in December described the futility of trying to have a pleasant Friday evening on the Plaza. An attempt to do so with friends only exposed them to three drunken shouting matches, open drug dealing, smoking and dogs.

To abate the “very disturbing” conditions, the man suggested enforcement of smoking and dog laws; surveillance cameras to deter misbehavior; more police patrols and presence; ID checks; a storage locker for property storage; an off-Plaza area with benches to draw off Plaza crowds; even a table connecting trimmigrants to employment opportunities in their field.

Police Chief Tom Chapman said he agreed more enforcement would help, but that “we’re not arresting our way out of it.” Regardless, he said, “I can’t dedicate more than what I have.”

As for Plaza dogs, their owners all claim they’re service animals. This halts any further police enforcement, per a Department of Justice edict that Chapman called “a bunch of crap.”

“It hurts people who have real [service animal] needs,” said member Josh Neff.

Chapman said that since the 2014 passage of Prop 47 emptying jails of nonviolent offenders, and with the “book and release” policies now in effect, “I’m not sure arresting is any deterrent.”

Cameras are a City Council decision, and Chapman urged advocates to make their wishes known. “Show up at City Hall,” he said. “It’s the only way to get things done.”

Member Stephanie McCaleb reported on possible lighting improvements for street safety. She found a city report that dwelled on aesthetics of light, but no indication of any safety-related standards.

More useful information on safety through environmental design was found at the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (,) a clearinghouse for crime prevention reports and resources.

Member Maureen McGarry said impacts of lighting on natural areas must be considered. “We don’t want to turn this into L.A.,” she said.

Three darkened areas which get high pedestrian use need better illumination were identified: the pedestrian footbridge over U.S. Highway 101, from the footbridge down G Street to the Plaza and L.K. Wood Boulevard to California Avenue.

McGarry said she’d like to see some unused properties in Arcata be designated for legal camping. She said the new areas might feature communal living arrangements, community gardens and shared resources.

She said the Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives (AHHA) organization is willing to manage the campgrounds. A presentation in sustainable villages is set for the Sept. 6 City Council meeting. Two potential sites are being discussed: one on unused city property in Aldergrove Industrial Park, and one at the former Industrial Electric building south of Samoa Boulevard.

Considerable discussion was devoted to directing aid to those willing to utilize services for self improvement as opposed to the “service resistant.”

Neff suggested that rather than use public funds, “maybe private individuals could open their homes to the homeless.”


(Preliminary categories identified during workshop. Not listed in order of priority).


— Darlene Spoore (specifically, the state of homelessness in Arcata

— Stephanie McCaleb (specifically, provided some materials on poverty indicators)



— Anjali Browning (specifically, high demand on police resources)

— Bryan Radzin (specifically, issues related to high call volumes at budget motels)


— Brooke Epperly (specifically, rates of alcohol and drug addiction in Humboldt)

— Melissa Lazon (specifically, needles & parks)


— Joshua Neff

— Anjali Browning (APD Crime Data Analysis)


— Joshua Neff

— Anjali Browning (APD Crime Data Analysis)


—Tracy Smith (specifically, HSU student experience)

— Danielle Dickerson (specifically, HSU student experience)

— Maureen McGarry (stated she wants it to remain a priority)


— Melissa Lazon (specifically, Prop 47)


— Stephanie McCaleb (specifically Crime Prevention through Environmental Design)

— Melissa Lazon (specifically, pathways)



— Anjali Browning (APD Crime Data Analysis)

— Joshua Neff


— Bryan Radzin (specifically, issues related to Service Dogs)



— Anjali Browning (Analysis of APD Calls for Service)

— Bryan Radzin



— Anjali Browning (Analysis of APD Calls for Service)

— Maureen McGarry (specifically, legal camping within city limits of Arcata)


This topic will be folded into issues related to Homelessness


— Stephanie McCaleb examined traffic safety, ultimately decided to refer the issue to the

Traffic Safety Committee


The Task Force will defer to the City Council on policies to be established

But McGarry argued that even nuisance people need a place to stay. “If we as a society don’t take care of these people, who will?” she said.

Chair Anjalai Browning noted that campers are already common in Arcata, and that a designated campground might reduce camping complaints elsewhere.

The task force then winnowed its list of priority projects, with members assigned to do research and report back. (See below.)

For its remaining three meetings, the task force will draft its final report, conclude data gathering, look at community policing, identify further assets and resources, compile more information resources for online posting, and hold a community outreach event.

That event will probably be combined with the Cahill Path Project Launch Party in October.

The project aims to improve safety on the heavily used walkway through Cahill Park, where an elementary school student was assaulted last September.


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