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San Diego police begin enforcing city's unsafe camping ordinance

Mayor Todd Gloria warned it will take time to see a difference, calling it a scaled approach.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego police began enforcing an unsafe camping ordinance Monday July 31. 

The ordinance bans encampments on all public property if shelter beds are available. However, there are certain areas like near transit centers and homeless shelters, where you can’t camp regardless of shelter space.

Mayor Todd Gloria warned it will take time to see a difference.

"This process will take weeks, if not months," Gloria said. "This is not an overnight thing. You will continue to see tents in the city today and tomorrow, but my goal is a few months from now, you will see far fewer.”

Gloria said it's a scaled approach. To start, police will focus their efforts near select schools and parks heavily impacted by encampments before moving to other areas where they're not allowed. Shelter is offered at every point of contact. 

  • A first contact is simply to educate someone about the ban.
  • A second contact will result in a misdemeanor citation.
  • A third contact is potential for arrest.

“It's messing everything up. It's going to cause a lot more stress, a lot more problems, a lot more fights and it's going to spread out to the neighborhoods," said Moses Miramontes, who has been living on the streets for five years.

He's one of several homeless people who worry there's nowhere for them to go.

One woman who spoke with CBS 8 asked to remain anonymous but said there is no communication. 

"They're not telling us to get off the streets. They're just telling us we can't camp out around schools, around trolley stations. Ok, so you're just moving us where? Off the side of the freeway? They don't have a plan. They don't."

At last count, there are about 3,300 people living without shelter in the city of San Diego, far more than the 2,400 emergency shelter beds available. There are plans to create hundreds of new beds, as well as open up more safe parking lots.

As for the unsafe camping ban, a city spokesperson tells CBS 8, outreach teams have spent weeks educating people about what options they currently have.

San Diego Police Neighborhood Policing Division Captain, Shawn Takeuchi echoed what Gloria said, telling CBS 8 he had teams out in Balboa Park Monday, while no one accepted the shelter that was offered, it's only the first step.

"I think eventually we're going to change people's behaviors and that’s what we're trying to do, is change people's behaviors so they make the right decisions and that takes time," said Captain Takeuchi.

WATCH RELATED: 'It's a process': What encampment enforcement will look like

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