What Do I Do if a Homeless Encampment Appears on My Property?

Over the course of the past five or six years, homeless encampments have sprung up in locations across Southern California. The fact is that no community appears to be immune from homeless encampments. Indeed, the shocking reality is that no neighborhood seems to be excluded the prospect of a homeless encampment.

You may have found yourself in the unfortunate position of having a homeless encampment appear on your property. If that is the case, you need to determine what you should do to deal with a homeless encampment on your property.

You can take a proactive stance in regard to keeping trespassers off your property in the first place. Part of this process is placing no trespassing signs around the perimeter of your property. Although doing this is not a foolproof solution. However, it gives law enforcement an added advantage if homeless people trespass on your property.

Be Careful with Self-Help

Perhaps the most important things you need to bear in mind is to take care when it comes to self-help in regard to addressing a homeless encampment that appears on your property. Yes, a homeless encampment on your property is illegal. Nonetheless, an illegal and intolerable situation can escalate into something dangerous and violent in a proverbial heartbeat.

Keep in mind that some individuals within a homeless encampment may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Therefore, when confronting people comprising a homeless encampment on your property, have someone else with you and don’t push the issue if you detect tempers are beginning to flare with the trespassers.

Contact Law Enforcement

You have an initial decision to make in regard to contacting law enforcement. You need to base this decision on the state of affairs at the homeless encampment on your property. If you feel an immediate emergency exists, call 911. If there isn’t an immediate physical danger to you or anyone else at the moment, and if there is not an immediate threat of significant damage to the premises, you can contact the non-emergency line for the police or sheriff’s department.

You do need to keep in mind that what appears to be a fairly calm situation can escalate quickly. Thus, if you’ve any uncertainty as to what is going on or potentially could happen at the premises, call 911 initially. Explain the situation to the dispatch operator and let that individual and law enforcement more generally to make a decision how to respond.

Keep in mind that you might not be able to get law enforcement to your property any time soon. In some areas, law enforcement is understaffed. The police or sheriff may not come to your property unless there is a situation involving the potential for physical violence.

Citizen’s Arrest

You can exercise your right under California law to make a citizen’s arrest of people who have established a homeless encampment on your property. By taking this course, you do not have to take the suspect into custody. Indeed, you do not even have to confront the people in the homeless encampment on your property.

The citizen’s arrest process requires you to witness a misdemeanor committed in front of you – criminal trespass, for example. You call the local police department or sheriff’s office and advise you want to make a citizen’s arrest. Because a crime is ongoing in front of you, you have better odds of getting a response from law enforcement.

The police or sheriff will come to your property. You will be required to sign an arrest form and agree to testify in court. The police or sheriff will then make a physical arrest of the trespassers in the homeless encampment on your property.

Contact Information for Southern California Sheriff’s Departments

Following making immediate contact with law enforcement about a homeless encampment on your property, you may need to maintain ongoing contact with the sheriff’s department in your country (or the police department in your city). Keep in mind that in some Southern California cities, there is no independent police department. Rather, law enforcement services for those communities is provided via a local sheriff’s substation.

There simply are too many local law enforcement agencies in Southern California to include in this article. These sheriff’s departments provide you with a solid starting point when in need of law enforcement assistance to deal with a homeless encampment on your property.

Contact information for four of the major Southern California sheriff’s departments is:

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department
Hall of Justice
211 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 229-1700

Orange County Sheriff’s Department
550 North Flower Street
Santa Ana, California 92703
(714) 647-1806

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department
4095 Lemon Street
Riverside, California 92501
(951) 955-2400

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
655 East Third Street
San Bernardino, California 92415-0061
(760) 956-5001