Outrage follows announcement to “arrest” the homeless at Pickett Park (updated)

Advocates for the homeless protested at City Hall in 2015.
Advocates for the homeless protested at City Hall in 2015.

Paul White of the nonprofit Reno Quality of Life recently announced that he and his group plan to arrest on Saturday the houseless who frequent Pickett Park. The announcement proclaimed: “To all illegal squatters in Pickett Park, we love and care for you enough to citizens arrest every one of you who is found in violation of City of Reno laws.”

White said the Quality of Life group will be meeting at the park at 10 a.m. “because we truly care about your present situation: lying around in filth, drugs/alcohol, crime, and (where it applies) avoiding seeking treatment for mention illness is ruining your lives and also the quality of life for all Reno residents.”

That language drew hostile responses online. 

“This flyer is literally announcing a felony,” one person wrote. Another said White is planning to terrorize the homeless.

A protest was quickly organized in response. 

“Please join me in bringing some humanity to the people that occupy that park,” the organizer wrote. The event, “Bring Some Love to Pickett Park” is on Facebook.

White said that city officials and RPD have been negligent in enforcing city codes in regard to the homeless.

Local attorney Henry Sotelo, who’s been a prosecutor and defender, said White’s efforts are misguided and shortsighted.

“Regular citizens who are untrained in law enforcement can get into trouble trying to arrest an individual. What they should do is call law enforcement and inform (the individual) to remain on site until the law gets there,” he said. “However, I do not recommended for a citizen to detain somebody. Some people could be accused of a battery for detaining people.”

VIDEO: Homeless Feeding Draws Small Crowd, Plenty of Thanks

QOL’s approach? A bad idea, Sotelo said.

“Police care about these people. They have already been down this road by trying non-stop arrests,” he explained. “It does not work. We see the same people. We see the same issues.”

“Of course they care. Police care about these people. They have already been down this road by trying non-stop arrests,” he explained. “It does not work. We see the same people. We see the same issues.”

The Reno Police Department will have officers at the park on Saturday.

Deputy Chief Byron Venzon said that they are aware of the situation and are monitoring it. He advised against citizens’ arrests, citing similar reasons as Sotelo.

“In some circumstances, a citizen’s arrest can be ‘legal’ and is not uncommon in cases such as trespassing on private property. That example is generally done by trained security at private businesses,” Venzon said. “That said, because it is legal, does not make it advisable to those not trained. Without some training, the potential to expose yourself, or anyone else, to a dangerous situation exists.

“The RPD would advise citizen’s who want to make an arrest or file a criminal complaint regarding a crime contact the RPD dispatch center at 334-COPS (or 911 in cases of emergency) and request an officer respond to the scene.”

Many criticized White, who also pushed the RenoElections campaign last election cycle. White also tried to get parents not to take their children to school on the first day. The demonstration drew few supporters.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to include information from the Reno Police Department.

Bob Conrad
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Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.


  1. I think all you shaming these people should be ashamed. You have no understanding of mental illness or drug addiction. Nor do any of you seem to have a firm grasp on the things that bring many into this situation. Yoir high cost of living with homes only being generated to bring in more wealthy people makes lower end housing unaffordable and drives up the cost of necessities. It’s your loc government along with your own greed that causes these problems. You wish to only bring in people you think will improve the cost of your middle class property thusly driving people of lower economic status out. YOU CREATED THESE PROBLEMS THROUGH YOUR OWN GREED SND GENERAL LACK OF EMPATHY.

  2. I wonder what address and phone number Paul White thinks a homeless person with no phone is going to put on an application for a job or an apartment.

    Assuming one of these people follows the advice in his utterly ignorant Homeless Plan on his website and goes to an employment agency and by miracle gets hired on.. where are they going to shower for work? Where will they get clean clothes or a hair cut? How will they get transportation to that job? How does one do good work while they’re having withdrawals I wonder? Where does he expect them to sleep when they’re tired after work? Certainly not the only public place where someone with nowhere else to go is legally allowed to exist in peace- the park. God forbid they sully anyone’s view. Maybe a shelter? No, Paul White thinks you shouldn’t be allowed into a shelter unless you’re clean and have a job already. It’s for your own good cause he loves you.

    Paul’s website claims he was a homeless drug user himself once. He openly admits that he refused to stay sober or work or obey the law. Seems he assumes that everyone who is out on the street is there only because of choices they made, like he says he was.

  3. Some of the homeless have been driven from their homes by unreasonable raises in rent. There has to be some help for them. The City Council needs to stop approving more housing marketed to the wealthy until there is more affordable housing for our longtime residents. Maybe rent controls need to be instituted. In the meantime, there should be assistance to help these people find shelter Landlords have become just plain GREEDY. When people on fixed incomes get large increases in rent, many are forced into the streets.
    Those who are professional homeless are that way because it is made too easy for them.They enjoy the lifestyle. If they can afford marijuana, they can work for wages to afford shelter.If they refuse help with addictions and finding work, there should be penalties. They should not be permitted to take over public spaces, such as parks rendering them dangerous and filthy. Those camps should be broken up.
    There is a ravine behind the Wells Fargo, Wendy’s and gas station on Northtowne Lane where there are homeless camps.It is a sheltered place and for that reason a good place to make a camp. They don’t seem to be disturbing anyone. If they don’t want to go to a shelter, it is an alternative.but wherever these camps are, those staying in them should have to clean up the messes they make, and the police should or some lawmaking body should be monitoring to see that it is done. Of course in freezing weather, there should be indoor shelter for anyone who needs it, There are lots of empty buildings around town, but there are not enough funds to staff them unless by volunteers. I don’t know a definitive answer, but we cannot allow the homeless to turn Reno into more of a cesspool than they already have. Just take a drive around town and you will see shopping carts loaded with ragas and other objects that have been abandoned.

  4. In the past 3 years, according to NeighborhoodScout (which gets its data from FBI Uniform Crime Report), Reno has gone from a 27 to a 10 (0 being highest crime rate). Only a few things have changed in Reno in this time period: a bunch of professional homeless arrived, a bunch of gang members from Northern California showed up, and recreational marijuana was legalized. These new inhabitants combined with the drug culture has not helped any of the new companies get the best employees and long-time residents have been subjected to a sudden change in quality of life. You can’t even get away from them by going into nature or your car will be broken into at a trail head or you will be threatened by them at one of their camps. Why anyone would allow this to happen in a family-oriented place near Tahoe and the Sierras is baffling- it is not like any of the other overcrowded cities of the West with these issues. Congratulations on ruining Reno in less than 3 years.

  5. It’s encouraging to hear people who have lived in California warn Reno of what a community turns into when the police are not allowed to firmly and fairly enforce reasonable standards of behavior for ALL residents. Please attend the 10:00 Saturday event and see something that is all too rare: reasonable people who truly care about the homeless situation, asking the Reno Police to do their job and simply issue citizen-requested citations for flagrant violations of the City’s Municipal Code.

  6. Perhaps Paul White should follow the tenants of Christianity he espouses and consider reading scripture. Proverbs 22:22 says “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” And to radio talk show host Monica Jaye, who is in cahoots with Paul White could find a more positive way of getting ratings. I did several food and clothing drives when I worked in radio. To exploit the homeless as a publicity stunt really shows an indecency and a lack of empathy for your fellow human beings. Shame on you!

  7. Being poor is not a crime, being lazy is. Refusing medical intervention so you can continue this unhealthy life style on the streets of our city should not be an option. The crime is in allowing this to happen.

  8. I would like to hear more from Harry Sotelo regarding better solutions. The problem is complex, the needs of these people many and making ‘citizen arrests’ does not solve any of the problems of homelessness. I think we have to be careful to not judge others for what we consider ‘bad behavior’. There is always more to the story that we cannot see.

  9. Please do not turn this place into San Francisco and the California in general in regards to homeless policies. They do not work, and if “you” truly care about these people then moving them somewhere where the options aren’t whatever the hell they want – including drugs and alcohol – is actually helping them. City streets and parks are for tax payers. As soon as you let people do whatever they want then their is no standard. California East.

  10. As a new Permenant resident to Reno, I cannot express the horror of allowing the same failed homeless policy practiced in California to be sanctioned in Reno. I moved here because I could not walk my dog in my neighborhood with homeless men coming out of shrubs who peed or defacated in public using hands to wipe themselves if caring to wipe at all.
    CA has become a cesspool of filth and walking zombies. One of the most beautiful and greatest states, destroyed by politicians who no longer care about the citizens that live and struggling to make a living in CA. How can anyone run a business where customers have to walk thru filth to get into their buildings. Whole sections of business storefront properties are empty because the owners closed their doors.
    Throwing Billions of tax payers hard earned money isn’t helping this homeless situation. Building free housing to people who don’t care about their residence doesn’t fix the homelessness. CA government has failed the tax paying citizens, worse, they failed the ones who need the help most. Government isn’t the answer, let local community entities keep more of their funds to solve their community problems.

  11. We have all seen what happens when you tolerate homeless people taking over the area: You’ll have higher crime, poop and trash everywhere, etc.

    These are not “poor” people, these are people who choose to make bad decisions, drug and alcohol abuse is their main problem.

    When you tolerate this bad behavior, you will ruin the community as proven with LA, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, on and on. Why would you want this in Reno?

    Better idea: Invite these people into YOUR house, and you support and clean up after them.

  12. i think they are homeless due to the high cost of rent and addictions I don’t think we can do much except offer cheaper rent and also don’t give up on offering services for addictions I see them all the time drinking and the mess they leave behind is costly to clean up and I get that but cant we offer them a tent or something so they can at least get out of the weather

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