Margaret Keung, the chief executive officer of the Boys and Girls Club in Palm Springs can’t contain her gratitude towards Palm Springs police Sgt. Mike Casavan for the stepped up police presence at Sunrise Park. She greets him with a hug when she sees him outside the facility.
“We got our park back and it’s just great, we’re just loving it everyday,” Keung tells Casavan with a smile.
Keung says before the police department’s mobile command unit was deployed, images of people passed out with needles in their hands and needles scattered around were the norm outside the Boys and Girls Club.
“We would have kids finding needles, not knowing, you know what they were for,” she says.
“I mean that’s a major health and safety issue, I mean those needles carry diseases carry diseases with them even after they’re used,” Casavan tells Keung.
The police department says they’re not targeting the homeless because being homeless is not a crime.
Keung too wants to make it clear, it wasn’t about homelessness, “The threat of safety came from the drug users, the drug dealers and those with mental issues that would confront us the homeless, I mean being homeless is not a crime, and we try to co exist with them, but seriously just coming here, I couldn’t work here on a Saturday or Sunday without escort from my husband because of all of the criminal activity that was happening in the parking lot.”
The unit with two officers inside, sits here around the clock monitoring crime and also offering services to the homeless, the pilot program kicked off on September 10, 2019, in a little over a week Keung says the crime and drug use have disappeared along with the fear.
“Yesterday was the first time we saw a family out here barbecuing an actual family, a legit family with a kid, and they were playing on the swings and slides and our kids went out again yesterday to play, it was fantastic,” she tells Casavan, adding, “thank you so much.”