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Homeless blamed for crime increase

Costa Mesa task force looks to step up regulations and citations at rehab homes and long-term stay motels, among other acts, to address the problem.

September 06, 2012|By Mike Reicher

As the homeless are cited for smoking and other violations in Lions Park, they have dispersed elsewhere in the city, Costa Mesa administrators and residents say.

Administrators at Tuesday's City Council meeting blamed the homeless population's dispersion for the recent increases in burglary, drug use, vandalism and other crimes on Ford Road.

Now, members of the Neighborhood Improvement Task Force are looking to step up regulations and citations at the city's long-term stay motels and its drug and alcohol rehabilitation homes.

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They hope this focus, along with changes to food sharing and other homeless services, will better address underlying social issues.

"Unless you are reducing the numbers, they are scattering to other places," said city Assistant CEO Rick Francis.

The city now has a full-time ranger patrolling Lions Park, and some churches and social service groups have stopped serving meals there.

But people who used to smoke and congregate in the park moved across the street to a condominium community and near the Costa Mesa Historical Society.

"The problem is not really being solved," said resident Beth Refakes. "They're just relocating them."

Francis said that the condominium owners could invoke antiloitering and trespassing laws.

Otherwise, the task force is creating ordinances to deal with unattended property and others to force motels and sober-living homes to better control their residents.

Neighbors complain of smoking and profanity coming from the sober-living homes, and police are called repeatedly to the motels, officials say.

The city has about 120 sober-living homes and 12 motels that are problematic, Francis said.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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