Helping the homeless and cutting down crime. Those are the goals of a recently-formed outreach team from Metro Police.
On Monday, while at a wash near the I-15 and Sahara, Metro’s new homeless outreach team tried to assist the valley’s most vulnerable.
“How long have you been on the streets,” one officer asked.
Officers Keith Hanoff and Kerry Ruesch are two members of the eight-person unit.
“It’s a different mindset,” Hanoff said. “As a police officer, it’s go, go, go, make the arrest. Get to the next call. As an outreach, it’s much more thinking long-term.”
That includes connecting the people they find to resources such as housing programs and medical detox centers. Since the team started doing outreach at the beginning of December, it’s contacted, 1,600 homeless people.
More than 400 got services and almost 70 were removed from homelessness.
“I can get you over there in 20 minutes,” one officer said to a homeless person.
However, sometimes they refuse the help.
“They get so accustomed to living like this that they look for excuses to stay,” said Officer Hanoff.
Officers Hanoff and Ruesch drive their way to another homeless hot-spot near the I-15 and Spring Mountain.
“Police department, anybody here,” they said while yelling out in the area.
Metro’s Homeless Outreach Team says it’s not just about helping the homeless that stay in tunnels, it’s also about reducing violent crime across the Las Vegas valley.”
“We’ve had homeless killing each other out here because they’re high or they’re fighting,” Officer Ruesch said. “I’m not saying all the homeless are committing all the crimes, but there’s a good portion who need to get their drug and sometimes they got to do what they got to do to obtain it.”
The homeless are also often victims of crime, so it’s about protecting them as well.
“We’re not here to make arrests, we’re here to get resources,” one of the officers said.