Orangefield native wreaks havoc in Southeast Texas

Orangefield native wreaks havoc in Southeast Texas

Amanda Brown, whose stepfather and sister are currently sitting in Calcasieu Parish Jail for kidnapping and battery charges stemming from an attempt to get Brown assistance for her drug use and mental health issues, is mostly free, roaming through Southeast Texas cities as she proudly displays her habits of drug use and prostitution through her social media accounts.

Brown has gained a following on social media of more than 6,000 individuals. Her tactics are unorthodox, as she has gained many followers on Snap-chat and Facebook because of her unabashed posts of her life as a homeless drug user. Though she has gained the attention of the community, she has also gained quite a rap sheet for her antics and could be considered a public nuisance.

The 21-year-old is well-known in the local law enforcement community with nearly a dozen arrests in as many weeks in Orange and Jefferson counties alone. She has been trespassed from many properties primarily consisting of the fast food restaurants she frequently panhandles near.

Vidor Police Chief Rod Carroll said department officers frequently encounter Brown, oftentimes having up to three interactions per week.

“She’s been on the radar, especially within the last 60 to 90 days,” he said. “We usually encounter her for criminal trespass issues – either she’s at a business where she’s been trespassed from or from a business that wants to issue a trespass warning because of her behaviors.”

While dedicatedly chronicling her daily activities via Snapchat, Brown often records her messages while in public restaurants, the content of which ranges from singing, asking for transportation and drugs, to even offering sex for money or drugs.

Though not familiar with the specifics of Brown’s social media activity, Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Kim Pipkin said such activities qualify as a crime – one that could result in the exploitation of someone who often needs help.

“Certainly, they are at risk for becoming victims of sexual assault from buyers,” she said of women who work in prostitution. She said women engaging in such a risky lifestyle may also face aggravated assaults, robbery and are at risk of being exploited by human traffickers.

“They are being exploited,” she said. “There is some need of theirs that is not being met – financial, mental health, educational needs, having a support system.”

According to information from the Beaumont Police Department, since December 2018, Brown has been arrested seven times, typically for public intoxication with one case pending for a class B theft charge. In Orange County, she has four arrests on record in the same time frame. Following her release from county lockup, law enforcers have reported she’s often transported to nearby facilities for an emergency mental health hold.

Beaumont Public Information Officer Carol Riley told The Examiner that law enforcement’s attempts at committing Brown to a mental health facility, always temporarily, show a lack of available assistance for those experiencing mental health issues, and because of that, it falls back onto residents who may never have heard of Amanda Brown.

“It can definitely put strains on police and correctional resources,” said Riley. “Because of her issues, we’re left to be social workers and we’re locking her up for her own safety. It costs the city. It costs the county. Ultimately, everyone pays a price for her mental health. We want to help but our hands are tied.”

Some Other Place director Paula O’Neal said circumstances such as Brown’s are not unheard of in the community, as mental health assistance in Southeast Texas is limited and often requires resources to take advantage of.

“In the past, there were places that they could be put, but now, because of the errors of our ancestors and past history, we don’t have those places anymore,” said O’Neal. “Many end up in jail and jail’s not where they need to be. Our criminal justice system is not equipped to deal with mental health issues. There are some officers in the area that are getting mental health education … but they’re not psychiatrists. And you can’t expect them to diagnose who’s mentally ill and who’s just a bad person.”

Chief Carroll also said the Vidor Police Department has committed Brown with emergency mental health holds in the past, but without the desire from Brown to get help, there’s not much that can be done.

“For a lot of people, unless you want to do something about it, you can’t be forced,” he said. “We’ve brought her … for some treatment. We can order her under an emergency order for detainment for mental health. They hold her for 24 to 48 hours. But if she doesn’t want help, you can’t force her and you can’t treat her for mental health until she gets detoxed from the drugs.”

Brown voluntarily refraining from partaking in illegal activity may not happen anytime soon with one of her most recent posts on Snapchat showing Brown in the back of a police cruiser hiding an amount of pot she had been attempting to trade for methamphetamine.

Though the exact information relating to the circumstances are unknown, social media users following Brown indicated area officers were giving Brown a courtesy ride to a location of her choosing.

When asked about the possibility of Brown blatantly transporting drugs in the presence of fellow Southeast Texas law enforcement, Carroll said, “We have to have reasonable suspicion or probable cause. She has constitutional rights … We can’t search people on a whim just because they’re a drug user. We have to be able to state on an affidavit of probable cause why we searched them. Just because you’re a past drug user doesn’t give us the right to search your home or search your person.”

Regarding his hopes for Brown’s future, the police chief said, “As a human being, we have to have compassion and empathy. I hope somehow, someway, she has a desire to change, but if she doesn’t, the road she’s on is going to be a dead end road.”

Brown was most recently arrested Feb. 12, by Vidor officers after a tip led them to question Brown, who admitted to having a pipe typically used for smoking illegal substances. As of publication, Brown was being held at the Orange County Jail on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia on a $500 bond and $252 fine.