The Homeless

Park rangers, police arrest 30 homeless in American River bike trail ‘warrant sweep’

A few dozen park rangers and Sacramento police officers arrested 30 people during a “warrant sweep” Wednesday at homeless encampments along an American River Parkway bike trail, authorities said.

Officers and rangers were seen handcuffing a number of individuals near homeless camps set up in the Richards section of the city along the Twin Rivers Trail, south of the American River and just west of the Highway 160 overpass.

Sacramento County Chief Park Ranger Michael Doane said in an emailed statement Thursday that the sweep “took place in the lower reaches of the American River, and yes, it is focused on the larger areas of homeless encampments.”

Doane said park rangers plan two or three warrant sweeps at the American River parkway each year, “to show due diligence in trying to serve warrants.”

He said 30 arrests were made during Wednesday’s sweep, and about 40 were arrested in a sweep last December.

Park rangers averaged 68 warrant arrests a month so far in 2019 at the parkway, Doane said.

“The monthly averages demonstrate that there are many people who have not followed through with their court appearances or have been accused of committing a crime and the judge issued a warrant based on probable cause,” Doane said. “As long as the monthly averages for warrant arrests are so high, we will continue with planned warrant sweeps since the need if there.”

Homeless camp clearings, citations and warrant arrests for inhabitants at the American River Parkway have seen a rapid climb since last September, when a federal appeals court ruled cities can’t punish people for resting or camping in public.

There were fewer than 25 warrant arrests on the American River Parkway each month between September 2017 and August 2018, according to a data report last month by The Bee. November and December each saw 67 warrants served, followed by 65 this January and 40 in rainy February.

Data also showed that homeless camp clearings on the American River Parkway steadily climbed from 80 last February to more than 1,100 this January. The clearings then declined this February, to fewer than 500, as heavy rains brought flooding and flood risk to the area.

Although the sweep came within days of media reports that city officials and the American Flood Control District have said homeless encampments are causing infrastructure damage to the levee – and also two days before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin work on a levee improvement project on the north side of the river – Doane said Wednesday’s warrant sweep was planned in January and unrelated to the levee.

Sacramento police spokesman Officer Marcus Basquez said county park rangers have jurisdiction of the American River Parkway and its bike trail, but that police often assist ranger operations, including these sweeps.

County spokesman Ken Casparis said park rangers also perform one or two sex offender registrant sweeps along the parkway each year, with assistance from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s deputies recently evicted a large homeless encampment at a vacant lot on Stockton Boulevard in south Sacramento, which drew dozens of protesters and spectators. Two protesters were arrested, but sheriff’s officials said the eviction itself proceeded smoothly and peacefully.

The warrant sweep near the bike trail on a drizzly Wednesday drew no protesters and few spectators.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.