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San Diego District Attorney touts new task force targeting homeless crime

san diego county district attorney summer stephan
Posted at 4:40 PM, Apr 19, 2024

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego County's District Attorney praised the formation of a task force targeting repeat criminal offenders within the local homeless population during a press conference Friday afternoon.

The task force in question is SD ARCH, or the San Diego Accountability Renewal and Community Health Task Force, and it was formed in late 2023 to focus on crimes that are detrimental to the homeless and nearby communities: Drug sales, drug use, theft and vandalism.

DA Summer Stephan was joined by City Attorney Mara Elliott and a member of the San Diego Police Department's top brass as they announced four successful felony prosecutions:

  • Frederick Johnson (59): Possession of methamphetamine for sale
  • Della Infante (59): Sales of a controlled substance
  • Angel Bernardo Reyes (55): Sales of a controlled substance
  • Ramon Juli Byars (55): Sales of a controlled substance

DA Stephan says the task force's ultimate goal is to rehabilitate these criminals and lift them off living on the streets.
“It is unacceptable to allow blatant and repeated criminal activity to continue unabated without consequences,” says Stephan. “Offenders who commit the types of crime negatively impacting residents, business owners and other unsheltered individuals are a small but active percentage of the homeless population. Our goal is not to simply incarcerate members of that community but, instead, compel them to accept the treatment and services they need and thus, assist them in ending the cycle of crime and homelessness.”

In Johnson's case, SDPD officers found an ounce and 13 vials of methamphetamine in his van, according to the press release. He was arrested again after he didn't show up to court. SDPD says it found more meth and five cell phones in a tent he was living in at Linda Vista Park.

Infante, Reyes and Byars were part of the same case, since undercover officers bought methamphetamine from them several times, per the DA's Office. Before the undercover investigation, the Sports Arena Boulevard area was plagued with drug crimes in recent months: More than 21 narcotics cases and over 25 arrests and citations for narcotics.

“San Diegans have the right to expect us to use our powers as prosecutors wisely, focusing our resources of the most serious crimes, such as drug trafficking,” said City Attorney Elliott. “The progress we are announcing today reflects our commitment to that approach.”

Chief Nisleit says the task force has been productive so far.

“The SD ARCH Task Force brings together a collective group to make an even greater impact. We are proud to be a part of this task force that will hold criminals accountable, provide resources to those in need and reduce crime in our communities," Nisleit says.

According to the DA's Office, data it collected over a two-year period indicates the overdose rate for people who are homeless is 118 times higher than the average person. Factors that may lead to a person becoming homeless include domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking, the press release says.

This is especially true for women and children, per the DA's Office.

Stephan and Elliott emphasized that cracking down on illegal drug sales is a top priority for the task force.

“If we want our community to improve, we can’t allow open-air drug markets to rule homeless encampments,” DA Stephan says. “Unhoused people are already vulnerable and to further keep them in the clutches of addiction is cruel.

“Those experiencing homelessness or suffering from addiction are entitled to our compassion, but that does not give anyone a license to commit crimes in our community," Elliott says. "We take drug offenses very seriously in San Diego because drug offenses often lead to the commission of more serious crimes.”

The SD ARCH Task Force meets at least once a month, and is made up of members of the DA's Office, City Attorney's Office and SDPD.