Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Policing American River Parkway is imperative

Published: Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 - 7:45 pm

There are perceptions about Sacramento's homeless population that are based on emotion and misinformation.

Some are so sympathetic to the plight of the homeless that they promote the inaccurate notion of the American River Parkway being populated by families who've been displaced by a terrible economy.

There is no question there are impoverished men, women and children in Sacramento's homeless shelters.

But along the American River, the picture is far more complex.

Statistics compiled by Sacramento County officials reveal another side of this story – people illegally camping on the American River who have criminal records.

This is hardly surprising, but the topic is a sacred cow in Sacramento. In a region with a strong homeless lobby, a conventional wisdom has grown that discourages truth telling.

Recently, I ended a column by stating that I feared a heinous crime could be committed in the parkway. Why?

When you combine fewer law enforcement officers because of government budget cuts, remote terrain and a growing sense of lawlessness, bad things can happen.

Hiking the trails myself, I could imagine unspeakable acts far from public view, such as a child abduction.

I couched this as a personal fear – my opinion – and yet some became enraged and called me a "fear monger."

Let's review the facts.

On Sept. 12, Sacramento County parks rangers and Sacramento police did a warrants sweep of illegal campers on the American River Parkway.

I'm still getting all the numbers, but one of the men picked up that day is on California's Megan's Law registry of convicted sex offenders. He was convicted of committing a lewd act with a child under the age of 14. Another had pleaded no contest to having unlawful sex with a minor.

Yet another man warned about illegal camping in the parkway last week shows up on Megan's list as a convicted rapist.

To state these facts is not to "demonize" people, as some homeless advocates like to say when confronted with this information.

This is simply the truth.

So far, I have statistics on 25 people – 20 men, five women – who were picked up for outstanding warrants by Sacramento authorities on Sept. 12. The charges they have faced include: arson, domestic violence, child abuse, resisting arrest, gun possession, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, car theft and public drunkenness.

There were numerous drug charges as well.

People who live near the American River Parkway know some parts of the area are out of control.

It's past time for the public to realize it and for Sacramento city and county authorities to develop a long-lasting, methodical approach to policing the parkway.


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Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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