Garden Grove

Work with homeless wins honors for PD

FROM LEFT are GGPD Capt. Tom DaRe, Capt. Ed Leiva, Officer Chris Shelgren, Officer Brian Hatfield, Chief Todd Elgin and Garden Grove Mayor Steven Jones. (Photo courtesy of Association of California Cities-Orange County).

By Lou Ponsi

Orange County’s homeless population has been exploding.

In 2015, the Garden Grove Police Department responded to 40 percent more calls involving homeless individuals than the previous year.

From volunteering with homeless outreach groups at his church, Garden Grove Police Department Officer Brian Hatfield had a plan.

He made connections with a variety of resource providers and spearheaded an effort to form what is now the agency’s Special Resources Unit, a group of five specially trained officers tasked with forming relationships with the homeless community and connecting them with resources.

Since the SRT officially sprang into action in May 2016, the city has seen a drastic reduction in homelessness in several key problem areas in town, Hatfield said.

“We are able to relocate and to hook these people up with resources,” he said.

The effort hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The SRT unit recently received a Golden Hub of Innovation Award, a recognition given by the Association of California Cities, Orange County (ACC-OC).

Golden Hub awards are presented annually in a variety of categories for public-sector initiatives that have improved productively and efficiency.

Garden Grove PD’s SRT received the Golden Hub in the Public Safety category.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Homeless Liaison Program in Lake Forrest also received a Golden Hub award for Public Safety.

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