San Bernardino Police Department

Homelessness, panhandling, metal theft and gang violence were some of the issues discussed Wednesday at the latest “Coffee with a Cop” meeting in the back room at a local restaurant.

“I realize it’s not a crime to be poor,” San Bernardino resident Tim Abney said. “But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit-up for money by panhandlers.”

During the meeting a man, who appeared to be homeless, was in the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant asking people coming and going to their cars for money.

Police launched a relatively short-lived anti-panhandling effort almost exactly a year ago, and in July the City Council closed the park around Feldheym Central Library for a time after patrons said homeless people there made them feel unsafe.

“In my experience there are several reasons some people become homeless,” police Lt. Travis Walker said. “Some for blight, some are just trying to hide from the law and some may have emotional issues.”

In February, police started addressing issues throughout the city associated with homelessness.

But it’s not just about kicking out the homeless, said interim Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, also noting that homelessness is not a crime and that some would always remain.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, and we’re never going to eradicate this to zero.” Burguan said in a previous interview.

In another issue, some residents said they are fed up with the lack of street lights caused by metal theft.

“Someone took the copper wire out of street lamps in my neighborhood,” one woman said outside the meeting. “They’ve been out for over a year, and the city hasn’t been out to fix them.”

Another issue brought up was gang violence that erupted last week on the city’s Westside.

“Police are understaffed and overworked so we as a community need to be their eyes and ears.” said lifelong resident Jerri Jenkins. “The idea that the mayor wants to cut their pay is insane. If you want protection then you have to pay for it.”

The nearly 30 residents in attendance were highly motivated and appreciative of police for coming out and listening to issues on their minds.

“We need to stand up and take our city back,” Abney said. “This was once a great place to live, and it can be again. There is so much this community has to offer.”

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