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Long Beach Launches Housing, Social Services App for Police

The city of Long Beach has released a new tool for the police department to help connect at-risk individuals with resources to keep them from becoming unnecessarily involved within the criminal justice system.

The Long Beach Police Department has a new resource at its disposal as part of ongoing efforts to help divert at-risk folks from becoming unnecessarily entangled within the criminal justice system.

Instead, the new smartphone app, dubbed “Guides,” is intended to connect those people to much-needed housing, mental health and substance-use services.

Police can download the app onto their LBPD-issued iPhones, as part of city’s Law Enforcement Assistance Diversion program, otherwise known as LEAD. Guides has been available since January, but City Prosecutor Doug Haubert — whose office helped launch both the app and LEAD — formally announced the tool last week.

Both the app and LEAD, though, go back several years, and stem from efforts to give officers the necessary tools to deal with low-level offenders who may benefit more from social services than a criminal record — such as those who are homeless or have mental health or substance-use issues.

“We call on our officers to do a lot,” Haubert said in a recent interview, “but we don’t give them the resources they need.”

Haubert helped launch the LEAD pilot program in 2017 with funding from the Board of State and Community Corrections, and in partnership with Los Angeles County Office of Diversion and Reentry.

That program, which operated only in North Long Beach during its initial three-year stint, allowed law enforcement officers to connect qualifying people, including those who committed low-level criminal offenses, to social services instead of charging them with misdemeanors or putting them in jail. It also offered help to people who were homeless, or had mental health and substance-use concerns.

Funding for the LEAD pilot ran out in 2020, but during its three-year run, the program helped about 300 people avoid extensive trouble with law enforcement, according to Haubert’s office.

Nearly half of LBPD service calls relate to homelessness. The Guides app essentially came out of the initial LEAD pilot.

Former Long Beach police officer Chris Zamora, who’d been heavily involved in the pilot version of the LEAD program, brought to Haubert the idea of creating a simple, streamlined iPhone app that could give officers real-time information about available resources and how to access them.

About a year before the Lead program’s initial run ended in 2019, Haubert announced that his office had received a $360,000 grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice. That money gave the city prosecutor’s office the money it needed to bring Zamora’s initial idea to life. Shortly after, Haubert’s office contracted with Long Beach company Laserfiche to develop the app. The company signed on right away, according to CEO Chris Wacker, because of its connection to the city.

“We have our headquarters in North Long Beach, so we are personally affected by it,” Wacker said in an interview. “It’s a highly worthwhile project (which) provides real actionable information, and connects the homeless with people who are trained to provide the resources they need.”

In April 2022, Haubert’s office received another $900,000 grant from the DOJ to relaunch LEAD and expand it citywide. The money will keep the program running for three years.

The Guides app rolled out in January after Laserfiche made changes based on LBPD feedback during testing and the city was able to hammer out other issues.

The app’s performance and utilization rate will be monitored over the next year, Haubert said, noting that he expects usage to increase as his office expands LEAD to the rest of the city, officers get familiar with the new tool, and the app is updated with additional information about available resources.

©2023 Grunion Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.