In Minneapolis, police say that a homeless camp has become heroin-filled in part by the man who helps run it. James Cross is the leader of a group named Natives Against Heroin (NAH), which has been “running” the tent city for months. He is also at the center of an investigation about heroin dealing within the encampment itself.
He says he polices the tent city himself, doing a job the police don’t want to do, and that they have a “stand down” order that keeps them from even entering the encampment. The tent city itself is filled with homeless people with various quality of life issues, from addiction to mental illness and people with health issues or simply nowhere to go.
A recent overdose had brought scrutiny to the camp and the way it was run. People were shocked by the recent overdose of a woman named Pamela Rivera, who had accused NAH of hoarding donations such as food and clothes. It’s not clear if there is an investigation into the contributions or any of the other allegations.
Police say that as that group leader, Cross has been hiding other crimes. For example, they allege he staged a “drug bust” to kick out a heroin dealer because he wanted to gain more turf to deal his drugs. The “bust” was a part of a PR campaign that Cross creating hoping to take some of the heat off himself, authorities say.
The police warrant sought information about messages, and other content sent on Facebook.
Cross says that he is a recovering drug addict with a lengthy list of prior crimes. He spent 22 long years in prison for assault and dealing drugs on a reservation. He says he’s now been clean for 16 years.
Five years ago, he lost his son to a heroin overdose. His organization was created to fight the addiction epidemic. Cross also says that he has a twin brother who is not clean, and the police may have the two confused.
Encampments like these are becoming a common sight in factory cities across the country that have boarded up, taking the jobs with them.
Police can’t do much to prevent overdoses or hunt down drug dealers in such a tight-knight community, but Minneapolis Police told the media they currently have hourly patrols that move through the camp. They are also handing out cards with with a hotline number for people to call with crime tips.