From the Eureka Police Department:

On October 1-4, 2017, a team from the Eureka Police Department (EPD) and Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) traveled to Houston, Texas for the 27th Annual Problem-Oriented Policing Conference. EPD’s submission for the 2017 Herman Goldstein Awards for Excellence in Problem Oriented Policing, “The Vacation of ‘Devil’s Playground,’” was selected as one of the six best project submissions for this year’s award. There were over 50 international submissions. The conference organizers, the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, invited the EPD-DHHS project team and other finalists to give a presentation of their projects at the annual conference as part of the final round of the judging process to determine the overall winner.

The winner of this international award was selected based on the composite scores of the Goldstein Award judges and the conference audience. The City of Eureka and Department of Health and Human Services are proud to announce that while our project team did not win the overall award, they placed 3rd and were recognized by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing as award finalists.

Chief Steve Watson and his command staff want to recognize the hard work and dedicated efforts of all of EPD’s sworn and professional staff, as well as the tremendous contributions made by all of the City’s departments, Humboldt Bay Fire, DHHS, and our many other community partners. Without these vital collaborations and combined efforts, the success of this endeavor (safe vacation of the PALCO Marsh encampments and reduction of the number of homeless in Eureka) would not have been possible.

Presentation Abstract = The Vacation of “Devil’s Playground”:

This presentation describes the City of Eureka, California’s broad-based, collaborative efforts with its community partners to reduce the number of homeless in Eureka and eliminate the stronghold of an infamous area known as the “Devil’s Playground.” Devil’s Playground had significant crime issues — theft, drugs, violence and environmental contamination. Over the years the homeless and transients had concentrated into an area known as the PALCO Marsh, a former logging site directly behind the regional shopping mall.

This area became ground zero for houseless individuals, eventually becoming known by the homeless and community by its well-deserved other name, the “Devil’s Playground.” Ultimately the confluence of many people combined with careful planning led by compassion and commitment to use as little force as possible, resulted in housing many homeless and clearing out the marsh, turning it into a hiking trail which now serves as a placeholder to prevent recurrence. The key element of this project was the broad collaboration of police, city, community, social services, and government working together to find sensible, reasonable and sustainable solutions based on analysis, debate and research.

Key Project Team Members (EPD/DHHS MIST):

  • Officer Wayne Rabang
  • Officer Neil Hubbard
  • Homeless Liaison Pamlyn Millsap
  • DHHS Program Manager (MIST)
  • Kelly Johnson, M.A.
  • Captain Brian Stephens
  • Former Chief Andrew Mills (Chief of Police, Santa Cruz P.D.)
  • Chief Steve Watson


  • City of Eureka Police Department
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Public Works
  • Building and Code Enforcement
  • City Administration; City Attorney
  • Humboldt Bay Fire
  • Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Betty Kwann Chin, homeless services provider
  • Humboldt CPR- Container Housing
  • Eureka Rescue Mission
  • St. Vincent De Paul
  • And lots of individuals