Petaluma clears out its homeless camps

Petaluma police Thursday said they are continuing their efforts to clear out homeless camps and provide services for their former residents.

Police documented 34 large encampments and more than 100 smaller camps in the city along waterways and in parks, open spaces business and residential areas including the downtown district and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tracks.

Between Jan. 2016 and the end of March 2017, all but three of the 34 large camps were abated notices to vacate were posted 435 times at 159 camps, police said.

Police said 601 cubic yards of waste and debris weighing 60.1 tons were removed during large scale and smaller cleanups.

It is common for new homeless encampments to appear or become occupied again near or at the same site of the camps that have been removed, police said.

The Petaluma Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Services Team uses interactive GPS interactive technology to track active and abandoned camps.

A GPS based smart phone app uploads pinpoint accurate locations, photos, information on the people who build the camps and the hazards and stolen property found in the camps.

The Homeless Outreach Services Team, comprised of Officers Ryan DeBaeke and Zilverio Rivera, works with the Mary Isaak Center homeless shelter and local charities and nonprofit groups to provide services for the homeless. Funding for those efforts is provided by CalRecycle.