After months of testing, City Prosecutor Doug Haubert and Long Beach police are preparing for a broader rollout of an app that helps officers connect people with shelter, services and case management – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The city is currently launching or stepping up a variety of measures intended to combat the overlapping issues of crime and homelessness in Downtown.
In response to public pressure and a high-profile assault case, city leaders earlier this month announced their Downtown recovery plan, which includes putting more police in the area, adding more emergency shelter and housing, and providing mobile mental health and substance abuse help.
Haubert’s efforts will likely complement what other city departments are doing.
Several years ago he worked with Los Angeles County law enforcement on a program that offers people alternatives to jail such as treatment for drug abuse or mental health conditions, and in 2022 he got a grant to expand that program (law enforcement assisted diversion, or LEAD).
The app his office developed in cooperation with Long Beach-based Laserfiche builds on LEAD by pulling in information from a variety of agencies and serving it to officers in the field.
It gives police an easy way to get data both for and about people they might have cause to arrest: do they have a caseworker they could be reconnected with, or do they need one? Where can they find a shelter bed or a drug treatment program? And most importantly, is there help police can steer them toward that will keep them out of jail?
The diversion program has shown results, according to a 2021 study by two Cal State Long Beach professors. After a year, a comparison group of offenders that didn’t take part in diversion had more misdemeanor and felony arrests and spent more time on probation than the group in the program. Also, more than 60% of participants reported using less drugs since starting diversion, and a small percentage said they’d stopped.
Haubert’s app, called GUIDES, puts more information and resources, such as LEAD, at officers’ fingertips. After showing about 100 officers how to use it for the testing phase, the city prosecutor plans to offer training more broadly in the police department.
In an interview, Haubert and Glareh “Gigi” Zanganeh, a trained social worker who oversees the LEAD and homeless court programs, acknowledged resources such as long-term housing and drug treatment beds are often scarce.
But getting someone connected to case management can help determine what might be available to them, Zanganeh said – for example, Los Angeles County may have unused housing vouchers when Long Beach doesn’t.
Haubert likens their efforts to building freeway offramps to developments that are under construction or not yet built. He plans to expand the use of the GUIDES app and the diversion program specifically to address Downtown issues.
“We’re not going to have all the resources in the world, so we have to learn to use the resources we have better,” he said.
The Long Beach Police Department did not make anyone available for an interview about the GUIDES app or Haubert’s diversion programs.