Barnstable Police Chief: Homeless Cost Town Half Million Dollars A Year

CCB MEDIA PHOTO Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald says dealing with the homeless costs his department a half million dollars a year.

Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald says dealing with the homeless costs his department a half million dollars a year.

BARNSTABLE – All the time Barnstable Police spent in the past year on calls, responses, arrests, and writing reports having to do with the homeless population can be calculated to the penny.

Barnstable Police Chief Paul MacDonald told the Barnstable Town Council last week that dealing with homeless from June 30, 2014 to June 30, 2015 has cost his department $520,203.37.

That number includes 4,260 calls resulting in 7,706 hours, not including the hours of the three-officer Community Impact Unit that focuses on homeless issues and was established in May 2014.

“This includes but is not limited to total protective custodies: 308; total criminal arrests, 247, total warrant arrests: 101,” the chief said in his report to the council.

Police have investigated six deaths of homeless people this year, he said. Two died in the homeless camps that are in the woods in Hyannis, one died in the Hyannis Village Green, one died in the NOAH homeless shelter, one in a hotel and one in an apartment.

The chief made an attempt to estimate the number of homeless people in town based on police records.

“Over the 12 month period, the Barnstable Police Community Impact Unit has had contact with in excess of 400 individuals,” he said.

The Community Impact Unit, he said, has put together dossiers on 409 individuals with biographies, photos, lists of their associates and addictions. Eighty-three of them say they were born at Cape Cod Hospital, the chief said. Home for the others ranges from other Cape towns to Seoul, South Korea, he said.

Based on that estimate of the number of homeless people in town with the amount of police services provided, .08 percent of the town’s population accounts for seven percent of the police department’s calls for service, the chief said.

This is not the first time the police department has calculated the cost of serving the local homeless population. The chief read off past figures.

In 2004, there were 500 calls for service, costing the department $95,000, and by 2006, calls had doubled to 1,295 calls, costing $96,900.

In 2007, the number of calls almost doubled again to 2,151 calls, costing $148,113.

This year’s number of calls, 4,260 calls, is almost double that figure and the cost has more than doubled, as calculated using the average rate of an office of $34.75 per hour. That figure is added to the cost of the Community Impact Unit for the year, which brings the total figure to more than half a million.

Chief MacDonald said the town’s homeless population can be separated into four categories.

There are those who use the services of the NOAH homeless shelter, where there are 55 beds; plus the transient population, couch surfers, and people who live in the camps.

He said there have been 2,571 calls for service to the area within a half mile of the shelter on Winter Street and most of those calls were to the village green, which is a few blocks away.

Chief MacDonald showed the town council a video taken on August 18 at 4:20 in the afternoon that shows a group of five people gathered around a bench on the village green.

One young man wraps a tourniquet around his arm.

“The white male you see is about to shoot up. You can also see a black female sitting on the bench. She’s about to do the exact same thing. This is in broad daylight on August 18 at 4:20 at the Hyannis town green,” he said.

He said the individuals in the video have been identified and none of them have been staying at the NOAH shelter. Several were living in the homeless camps off Old Colony Road that police removed earlier this month.

The chief pointed out that there are five schools within a half mile of the shelter, as well as the Hyannis Youth & Community Center.

But amid the grim statistics, the chief said there has been a lot of positive momentum with the Day Center Executive Committee, a group of business, civic and social services leaders who are working to move the shelter and set it up with a new model.

“We’re all working closely together,” he said.

The chief said everyone involved in the planning seems to be in agreement that the NOAH shelter is not in the best location.

Barnstable Town Council President Jessica Rapp-Grassetti thanked the chief for his report. “It’s difficult to reduce it to facts and figures when you’re talking about human lives. There but for the grace of God.” But she said, it is important to have the discussion because the situation has come to a point where something has to change.

Town Councilor Eric Steinhilber asked the chief what would happen to the 55 people staying at the NOAH shelter if it was closed.

“They will be out on the streets or in the camps,” the chief said. He estimated there are 100 people a night staying in the camps.

Town Councilor Jennifer Cullum said, “We don’t think moving the shelter is going to fix everything. But I believe it will fix some things.”

She said the bigger issue is the people living in the camps in the woods.

Cullum said, “I’m very sensitive to human services and providing help. But with these costs escalating at this rate, what we need to do is take an aerial look.” She suggested the Cape Cod Commission become involved in looking at the issue as a county problem.

Town Councilor Will Crocker asked the chief why homeless people come to Hyannis.

“We’re pretty friendly to them. It’s probably a good place to be,” the chief said.


Speak Your Mind

737 West Main Street
Hyannis, MA 02601
Contact Us | Advertise Terms of Use 
Employment and EEO | Privacy