Reader’s Rant: ‘Blame it on the Homeless!’ Who Is Really Responsible for Crime in OB?

by on March 13, 2018 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

by anonymous

All the following statements are direct quotes or paraphrased from either local social media pages or comments I’ve heard in Ocean Beach:

Multiple cars vandalized on the block  Those damn trolls.

Arson in our alley.  Hey, I saw a troll with matted hair going through our recycling cans the same day.  Must have been him that set the fire.

That stabbing on Newport last year: Probably a beef between a couple homeless guys.

Graffiti sprayed on my back wall.  Homeless again.

That guy needs a beat down.  Aren’t there any real men left in Ocean Beach?

In the old days they would have strung him up from a lamp post.

That recycling center enables homeless and should be closed down.

If you want to get rid of cockroaches you have to remove their food source.

I wish I could open carry a handgun in OB to protect myself.

I’ve recently joined a couple of Ocean Beach/ Point Loma-oriented groups on social media.

The moderators of the groups clearly are trying to make our community better and safer places for all of us.  They do a good job of allowing members of the groups to inform the community of events and services, spikes in crime, and potentially hazardous situations that the community faces.

All the while, the mods have to be on top of things by reviewing and deleting posts that are inappropriate, off topic, blatantly untrue, or potentially libelous.

It’s when some of the more outrageous comments slip through that you start to see the extreme hatred directed at homeless people.   They are called “trolls” or compared to cockroaches or other sub humans. Every crime for which no one has been apprehended is assumed by these haters to have been done by the homeless.

Calls are made for “street justice”. A person will report an alley fire, arsonist unknown, and the thread will be hijacked by other readers with a series of comments blaming the fire on homeless people with absolutely no evidence, just perceptions that everything bad in our town is caused by “them”.

It got me thinking.

I live in north OB in an area that some call “the war zone” or “battle zone”.   My current home is close to Robb Field and the San Diego River. It’s the part of the Peninsula that, along with Newport Avenue, seems to have the largest concentration of homeless.

We’ve got some issues here for sure.  Vandalism, litter, drunken driving, hit and runs, noisy late night revelers, etc.  You know, the things that compromise a good quality of life.  I wondered how many of these crimes are blamed on the homeless and how many were actually committed by them?

So with the help of a few others here on our block, we decided to think back to all the crimes that have happened here and who ended up being actually responsible for them.  Of course, some go unsolved.  But what about the ones where we ended up discovering who the perpetrators actually were?

Painted-over graffiti

All the vandalism to my own home has consisted of graffiti or destruction of our landscaping.  Someone will spray or write a tag on our back fence or across the alley on a neighboring home or business.  We try to jump on it ASAP so as to discourage copycats.  We’re out in the alley with our rollers, brushes, and leftover house paint as soon as we’re aware of the problem.

For awhile I and some of my neighbors were taking pictures of the graffiti and sending them to SDPD Western Division.  A neighbor said he got a call back from one of the officers who assured him not to worry.  He recognized the tags.  They weren’t, the officer said, from “real gang bangers”. They were the tags of teenage wannabe gangsters from “up on the hill”.  Ironic, I thought.  People blaming the homeless or “real gang bangers” who were presumably from Southeast or some other “ghetto area” when actually it was their own kids or their neighbors’ kids doing the damage.

Vandalism to landscaping has been another problem.  You’ll go out in the morning and someone has wantonly uprooted a plant, snapped a branch off a shrub, or slashed up a succulent or banana tree leaf.  Most of these incidents have gone unsolved.  The only time I actually caught someone in the act, it was a drunk woman who lived in the apartment building next door, swinging her key lanyard, cutting up  a poor defenseless tree.  Some people just don’t like beauty, I guess.

Once we awakened at 2:15 AM (right after the bars close) to the distinctive sound of a Harley engine slowing and accelerating,  punctuated by the sounds of shattering glass.  We got dressed and went out to find over twenty cars on our block and further up the street with smashed windows and side mirrors bashed off, including the mirrors on both of our cars.  The vandal did his damage, roared up West Point Loma Blvd, and headed towards the freeway and his escape.  I’m not sure how many homeless people own a $15,000 bike.  Can we assume that this was not a homeless person’s crime?

Vandalized plant

Across the street lives a friend whose back fence faces Robb Field.  Someone was taking branches and garbage from the park and throwing it over the fence into his backyard.  He put up a security camera and discovered it was a disturbed neighbor/home owner who was trashing the place over some imagined issue.

Another neighbor discovered that a mix of gas and old motor oil had been dumped around a tree in his yard, probably in an attempt to kill it.  It was the same tree that a neighbor had been complaining about because it shed leaves into her yard.

I’m not aware of any crimes of violence on our block in the past 20 years, other than the occasional bar fight, and I’m don’t think your typical bar customer is homeless, because drinking in a bar can run into some serious money. Once I had to intervene and prevent a neighbor from getting into a fight with a construction worker who had started nailing down a new roof too early in the morning but I can’t recall any other violent or near violent episodes and certainly none involving a homeless person.

Although it’s not really a crime, we’re occasionally awakened by loud people on the street. Sometimes it’s the ranting of a disturbed person walking by in the middle of the night. Could be homeless or maybe not. Most often these unwanted nocturnal “wake up calls” are just drunks trying with difficulty to get into their cars or loudly reliving the glorious time they had in the bar around the corner and sharing it by yelling into their cell phones, “Yeah, I’m so wasted!  Can we come over now?  Let’s party!” or the like.

Littering is a constant problem on our block.  Cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, and liquor bottles greet us many mornings.  My wife patrols the block and does the occasional cigarette butt pickup and she once gathered 200 of them.  And that was from only one side of the street!  These litterbugs could be anyone I suppose, homeless or not.  And once again, other than the smokers, the only person I ever caught in the act was a woman cleaning out her newish Jeep as she dumped assorted cans, bags, and magazines on the parkway in front of our place.  Our survey says, “Not homeless”.

In spite of living in an area of OB with a large homeless concentration, we’ve never had a break in or burglary to our home or cars.  Once, when I lived in South OB, I had some property stolen from my car.  When he was finally caught in the act, it turned out that the thief was a tow truck driver who lived in the neighborhood and had all the tools needed to silently break into locals’ cars.

After looking back over the years we realized that when we’ve been able to figure out who committed a crime in our neighborhood, it’s never been a homeless person.  Not once.

I’m not saying our experience is universal but I am saying that before people start blaming a whole class of individuals they need to make sure they have some actual evidence and are not basing their accusations on a prejudiced perception or assumption.

The recent alley arson and vandalism incidents could have been caused by a homeless person. Or not.  We won’t know until the authorities actually catch and convict someone. And all the big macho talk of street justice could easily lead to an innocent person being hurt.  Best to call the police and let them handle it.  It’s safer for everyone involved.

I’ll finish up this article with a mention of an incident that occurred up in Scripps Ranch last month as described by Channel 7 on February 19. It kind of sums up what I’m saying about making assumptions about who has committed unsolved crimes.  In this case, it wasn’t the homeless that were suspected. It was that other group of “undesirables”, teenage trouble makers:

“Police say a senior citizen is to blame for vandalizing dozens of cars in a Scripps Ranch neighborhood. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD) arrested Emilia Bello, 75, late Sunday after one of her neighbors said she watched the elderly woman allegedly key her car.

For months cars parked along Legacy Road in Scripps Ranch have been getting keyed on the passenger side. The scratches range in size and severity but cumulatively the damage is in the tens of thousands of dollars, police said. “We saw that there’s a scratch on the car, it’s like, ‘what’s going on?’ “ said Josie Ausdria, a neighbor. Ausdria said six cars that belong to members of her family were vandalized starting in mid-January. But she said the biggest shock was that a woman of Bello’s age could potentially be the culprit. “I thought it was just teenagers who were bored,” Ausdria said. “I never thought of her.”


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Val March 13, 2018 at 3:48 pm

So to sum up your article. People suck.


Michael March 13, 2018 at 5:14 pm

I’ve been threatened by a homeless guy in my alley who wanted to fight for no reason. He didn’t expect me to to start walking toward him to fight and he rode off. Another stole my light off my bike a month ago. A person saw them do it. How about the pile of crap always on the stairs going to the tidepools from Naragassant?

I think they commit far more crimes than the average citizen but then again, they’re not responsible for every crime.


Eric March 14, 2018 at 8:35 am

When I bought my house in NOB zone 1 I found a tiny homeless hideout in the bushes on the side of my garage which they accessed by breaking my fence to make a door As I scraped and cleaned it all out I found a host of id’s, wallets and stolen credit cards buried in the dirt which I returned to the authorities. I’m also not to thrilled with the piles of poop next to my garage door or the shit stain streak that has permanently stained my fence that some one leaned up against to relieve themselves. I’ve come home to junkies smokin their crack pipes or getting their kit ready for an injection at all times of day and night. The last homeless drug addict blocking my garage wanted to get nasty with me when I told him he needed to move so I could get in my garage but saw a 250lb 6’3” threatened and pissed off construction worker with a framing hammer get out of the car and thought better of it. It’s getting old.


Christo March 14, 2018 at 9:11 am

Clearly you don’t have the 30something methravaged troll named Celeste who comes back to her parents house (which she is not allowed in because she has stolen so much), then paces the front sidewalk screaming and clawing at the air until she notices her stepfathers car window is slightly open and breaks into his car to steal his change. This episode was a month ago, but we see her every couple weeks doing the same thing (I have only seen her break into his car once, but he has told me it was not the first time). Sometimes she is with “friends”.

My 6 and 8 year old daughters know who she is, know her name, and know when they see her to get back in the house while we call her stepfather, then the cops (at the stepfathers request).

This woman has destroyed her own life and see’s nothing wrong with destroying the lives of others too.

The cops do nothing, her parents do nothing, but something has to be done. My kids and the other kids in our neighborhood deserve better.


Jettyboy March 14, 2018 at 10:27 am

Great article focused on facts, not prejudice. Prejudice defined as feeling towards a person or group member based solely on that person’s group membership. The word is often used to refer to preconceived, usually unfavorable, feelings towards people or a person because of their sex, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, beauty, occupation, education, criminality, sport team affiliation or other personal characteristics. In this case, it refers to a positive or negative evaluation of another person based on that person’s perceived group membership. Try to remember two or three examples of vandalism by the homeless given here is is inexcusable, but it doesn’t help anyone to paint with a broad brush.


Curt March 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

With Love and compassion and by treating each other with love and respect we could create heaven on earth, this in theory that generally works, In some instances in practice with some homeless especially those with mental, emotional, and addiction problems this practice becomes problematic.

I have been threatened by more than a few different homeless people, and over 17 years of living in OB have had things stolen from my garage and back yard by unknowns; my alley is a freeway to Abbott St market for alcoholics and tweakers; and many often there is shit and piss in corners, sometimes even while I come across them. Often I see in the mornings disheveled homeless dudes having a good sitdown with a wakeup tallboy malt in its brown bag, in my alley and other places all over.

For over a year I used to like to go for long walks about OB like to the end of the pier, but the sheer creepy ugliness of bums and their personality BS and detritus that follows most of them has forced me to give that up, so now I do my exercising in the gym.

While I sleep at night many of these homeless and of course non homeless punks rule the night, and vandalize, shit piss (I expect the homeless on this) and threaten others all over town. In discussion with several cops they have told me many homeless and non homeless sleep or generally lay low in order to come out at night and do their thing, hanging out, partying, and constantly hunting for easy scores.

I for one am very very tired of it all.


ObKid March 18, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Amen…the homeless may use your alley as a bathroom but they sure aren’t slashing tires or breaking windows in dozens of cars. My theory is that it’s some 19 year old punk home from college that lives ‘up the hill’ causing all the damage this winter.


beau July 26, 2019 at 12:51 am

Honestly, telling OBceans not to claim prejudice and globally sum up the crap around here as a homeless problem? Because at the end of the day only 95% are complete sucks on this town, and not the full 100%?

I get the message but the theme of the article is a bit idealistic when there’s a practical, objective, real life failing that’s continuing in the town.

I work with a significant number of incarcerated who lived the homeless life prior to getting sent to the clink for their most recent heinous activity. Lemme tell you, with ALMOST 100%, you’re getting any combination of drug addict, personality disorder, meth induced psychosis or lasting neurological effects of chronic use, schizophrenia spectrum, or a JOBLESS individual with a daily need to engage in illicit activity for a next fix. I’m not talking about your harmless Shoeless Joe who’s living his fullest life off the grid.


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