SAN BERNARDINO - Frustration seethed at a community meeting Wednesday night about panhandling and other recurring crimes, but Police Chief Robert Handy said much of the problem was out of the Police Department's hands.

Nearly 150 people came to the meeting at Arrowhead Country Club, which was called to in response to the slaying of a 76-year-old woman in a usually quiet neighborhood nearby but which focused largely on transients, marijuana dispensaries and other quality-of-life issues.

"We are trying to refocus and pay a little bit more attention to those (types of crimes) because honestly, those are the ones we get complaints on," Handy said, adding he's working on a longer-term fix for aggressive homeless people. "We may not come out immediately, but many of those transients have been arrested more than 50 times. There's no room for them in jail."

That's largely because of Assembly Bill 109, a law that attempts to ease crowded prisons by releasing prisoners whose last crime was nonviolent to county supervision, he said.

Handy recommended reporting crimes when people see them and to take basic precautions like locking their doors and keeping valuables out of sight - and especially to pay attention to neighbors and report suspicious activity - but he discouraged residents from confronting transients or others.

The Police Department has cut down on people answering the main line - 909-383-5311- but anyone dissatisfied with the response could email Handy or Lt.


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Rich Lawhead directly, he said.

City Attorney James F. Penman also answered many questions, sometimes bluntly.

"I'm going to answer that question, and you're not going to like the answer but you know how I am," Penman said. " People have asked me what should we do? Go home, lock your doors, and load your gun."

Similarly, the city couldn't shut down marijuana dispensaries until the California Supreme Court decides whether they're legal, Penman said.

"Believe me, we want to," he said, but in the meantime the city is essentially limited to fining the dispensaries $1,000 a day and waiting.

While some questions were sharp, most residents said they were grateful for the meeting and the police.

"I have not had any problems when I contact the Police Department," said Judy Standley.

She said she lives across the street and had contacted the department three times in the last five days with information about the Nov. 14 homicide and vagrants.

The meeting was hosted by Councilwoman Wendy McCammack. Councilmen Fred Shorett, Chas Kelley and John Valdivida also attended.


Contact Ryan via email, by phone at 909-386-3916, or on Twitter @sbcitynow.