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Pierce County Sheriff’s Office cleans 30 tons of waste from encampment

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office recently took a proactive approach to clear homeless encampments.

Deputies offered to pay homeless campers to clean up their own mess — the campers did not accept.

Pierce County Sheriff’s Office detective and spokesman Ed Troyer told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson that a group of adults created a large encampment in the woods near Canyon Road and State Route 512, just south of Tacoma.

“They were self-proclaimed campers; they even put up signs in the woods,” Troyer explained. He said that the campers all have cell phones and have set up their own social networks to know where to go to get free goods and services.

But the arrival of the campers brought a whole host of problems for homeowners in the area. Crime — including shoplifting, vandalism, arson, and theft — spiked “a couple hundred percent” in the nearby neighborhoods, Troyer said.

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“It was really a detriment to the neighborhood to the point where kids weren’t going outside, neighbors were afraid of the area,” he said.

A cleanup of the encampment revealed 30 tons of waste. It was waste that included not only human excrement and drug paraphernalia but also kids’ toys and “enough carts to start their own grocery store,” according to Troyer. There were no children living in the encampment, so all of the toys, Troyer said, were stolen.

“That means there are a lot of kids out there who have become the victim of crime for really no apparent reason,” he said.

To clean up the area and give the campers employment, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office offered the squatters a job cleaning up their own encampment. Troyer said nobody took them up on the offer.

“They wouldn’t even clean up their own site if we paid them to clean up their own site,” he said.

Officers from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, along with volunteers from the surrounding neighborhoods, went into the woods and spent 300 hours cleaning the area. The homeless people left on foot or on bikes.

“Our guys are proactive, go out and do the work, and are rewarded and acknowledged for what they do,” Troyer said.

A slideshow of before-and-after photos can be viewed on the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

“The news is that it can be taken care of, it can be cleaned up, and it can be done when you have the backing of your supervisors and bosses, and let the guys go work,” he said, adding, “We really reclaimed that area and we’re gonna keep it.”

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