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Airport-area homeless, parolee concerns aired to Auburn city officials

Police chief says don’t expect his agency to arrest the area out of any problems
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Donald Verbrugge, 51, of Alta, is charged with theft and burglary in connection with a series of copper thefts at Auburn Airport Industrial Park buildings. 

AUBURN CA - Are the homeless and state prison parolees causing a rash of property crimes in and around the Auburn Airport Industrial Park?

A meeting attended by Auburn and Placer County officials heard from business owners with complaints about materials thefts, homeless camps and the threat of parolees.

They were told by Auburn Police Chief John Ruffcorn that homeless and parolee issues are a regional issue but that their concerns will be answered with a greater law-enforcement presence.

As well, a city of Auburn public works crew was at the North Auburn airport business park Thursday to clear overgrown brush from one property that had become a camp for a homeless couple.

Ruffcorn said Thursday that there has been an uptick of parolees who are homeless in the community.

“We need a regional solution,” Ruffcorn said, noting that Placerville has established an official camp for the homeless. “If they’re expecting me and my agency to solve the problem through arrests, they’re going to be sorely disappointed.”

Ruffcorn added that the homeless situation is a societal issue and he doesn’t want to send out the wrong message.

“There are people who legitimately need help and services,” he said.

John McGuire of McGuire Pacific Construction said he camped out overnight in early September with a firearm after a Labor Day weekend break-in. In that theft, about $5,000 to $7,000 in paint cans, batteries, aluminum and other metal was removed through a hole cut in a fence.

McGuire said that areas around the airport have been littered with waste from people pulling out materials from trash containers to remove metal to sell. Some people are camping in dense brush that has grown on some properties, he said.

“The homeless have always been here, but it’s getting worse,” McGuire said.

Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections, said that since the Yuba City-Marysville office closed in June and part of the client base was transferred to the Auburn office, parole agents have been traveling to Yuba County to supervise and make contact with parolees there rather than asking the parolee to meet them in the Auburn office.

“The agents also use Yuba County resources and programs for the affected parolees,” Patino said. “Additionally, the agents have adjusted their supervision for the transient population in Yuba County to minimize the need for them to report to the parole office.”

Patino also said that as well as the closure of the Yuba County parole office, the Diamond Springs Gold Country Unit, which served Placerville, had also been closed down.

Views on crime at the airport were expressed at Wednesday’s meeting of the Auburn Airport Business Park Association. Association President Rich Anderson, owner of TGH Aviation, said that concerns ranged from employee safety to property damage to a higher percentage of parolees in the area.

On Nov. 27, 51-year-old Alta resident Donald Arthur Verbrugge was charged with grand theft and burglary in connection with copper wire thefts at airport-area businesses. He was already in jail on a parole violation but was not considered homeless by authorities.

“Law enforcement is going to step up enforcement,” Anderson said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Auburn City Councilwoman Bridget Powers attended the meeting and said that part of the problem lies with the generosity of area residents when approached by panhandlers.

Powers said one solution is to give to organizations like the Gathering Inn or Salvation Army that help the homeless rather than to people who are asking for money on the street.

Powers expressed satisfaction with the response to concerns but also believes residents need to step up and report what they observe to authorities if they see something they consider suspicious.

“As soon as the police chief was made aware, there have been arrests and a cleanup,” she said. “The community has to help us police the community.”