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Homeless returning to Lompoc riverbed despite continued police patrols

Posted at 5:50 PM, Oct 19, 2018

The homeless people who used to live in the Santa Ynez Riverbed in Lompoc may have been evicted but the overhaul is just beginning.

The Lompoc Police Department has units out at the riverbed every day and the fire department has been out there, too, with three riverbed fires in the last week.

Lompoc resident Jocelyn Kelzer says she’s had more suspicious encounters around town since people were removed from the riverbed.

“We’ve had some break-ins towards my car and that’s kind of been an issue,” Kelzer said. “In some of the shopping centers, a little bit more of the sitting and asking for money. I’ve had people whistling at me, asking for more money.”

The Lompoc Police Department says it has been catching people trying to go back to the riverbed since the triage center closed, making 10 to 15 arrests and citations for trespassing in the last two weeks.

“The police department’s whole focus right now is to police the riverbed and make sure we’re addressing any of the homeless in the riverbed and as well as on the city streets,” explained Sgt. Kevin Martin.

The department has officers out there day and night to enforce their zero-tolerance policy.

“If we catch you down there, we will arrest you and depending on your situation, you may stay in jail, you may get a ticket, you may be site-released but it all depends,” Martin said.

Kelzer wishes there was more that could be done to help those who were forced out, saying, “I feel like the city’s hands are tied cause there’s not much they can do. It’s very upsetting to me because I feel like there’s not much I can do myself and that the city can’t as well.”

The city did recently declare a state of emergency for the riverbed cleanup, which could cost more than $500,000.

The Lompoc Police Department says the recent red flag warnings and fire dangers are a contributing factor to their push to make sure people don’t return to living in the riverbed.