CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A leader of an organization that assists the homeless says continued sting operations by Charleston police aren’t helping the situation.
Covenant House Executive Director Ellen Allen issued a statement Thursday that said her staff and board of directors are “greatly concerned about the mass arrests and the increasing efforts by the Charleston Police Department to criminalize and publicly shame the homeless.”
Allen told 580 WCHS more should be done to help not to shame.
“These are people that are in deep addictions, long-term poverty, untreated mental health issues and their portraits are being publicized all over town. They are arrested over and over again and they are already back out. I just think we have to find some real solutions,” Allen said.
The latest sting operation by the police department’s Hybrid Patrol Wednesday netted 19 arrests on the city’s East End.
According to the police department, 10 people were reported as homeless. Seven hypodermic needles were also found among four individuals arrested, in which one person was in possession of four syringes.
Charges included open container violations, simple possession of marijuana and outstanding municipal and state warrants.
CPD Public Information Officer Lt. Autumn Davis said the department is not criminalizing homeless.
“That’s even ludicrous to say. We are arresting people that are committing crimes,” Davis said.
Police receive many calls from residents and business owners who are reporting illegal activity.
“The public is calling us. Business owners are reaching out to us, ‘please do something about the problems in the area,'” Davis said. “It’s affecting quality of life.”
Allen admitted she doesn’t have a solution to the problem but said it needs to be a regional approach with significant federal funding.
“They really need long-term mental health issues addressed and addiction. I wish I had the answers, I don’t. We’re not trying to blame the police but these mass arrests aren’t moving us any closer to a solution,” Allen said.
Davis said city police are planning no changes.
“We are arresting people who committed crime,” she said.