Jeff Humphrey

City Team Targets Illegal Camping

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Friday, June 5, 2020 at 3:42 p.m.

In the shadow of a children’s hospital, in what’s supposed to be a public park, more than a dozen people were camping illegally.

That’s until Spokane Police and Code Enforcement officers showed up.

“Spokane police. Anybody in the tent,” Officer Jake Willard asks.

Now that the state has lifted some COVID-19 restrictions, the City of Spokane has resumed its camping abatement program.

“The camping emphasis is coming back on. We’re coming back out here to warn everybody to grab their stuff. Can’t be camping out in public or city spots,” Willard explained to people camped out in Cowley Park.

Police told campers they could find shelter, and resources to help them, at the Spokane Arena. The officer gives campers a pamphlet listing available services.

“Can I ask why you haven’t used any of the spaces right now,” Willard asked of a camper bedded down next to the park’s bathroom.

That man said a lot of shelters wouldn’t accept his dog, although the arena does allow most well behaved pets.

Another camper claimed he’s had his property stolen while staying in shelters.

“The arena’s gonna open up. There’s gonna be a lot of space. Probably gonna be a better place for ya. So we’re gonna give you that option,” offered Willard.

Unfortunately, people who feel they can’t find a safe place can create problems where they camp. Things like discarded syringes, human waste and a lot of garbage.

“A lot of camping is done along our riverbanks and that creates a lot of erosion and damage to our riverbanks. There’s also the problem of pollution,” lamented Carly Cortright, the City’s My Spokane Customer Experience Director.

That’s one reason why, in 2019, the City of Spokane created a team of police and code enforcement officers to abate illegal camping and, at the same time, haul away the trash it generates.

“So using this new Pod approach, where we’re working together, and we’re no longer doing that, ‘this is your land, this is my land’, but just responding to, it’s the public’s land, we’ve reduced that down to four days on average from the time the camp is reported to the time it’s closed,” Cortright said proudly.

For its role in reducing illegal camping response times from two weeks to just four days, the Pod Team received the city’s Team Collaboration of the Year award.

If you see illegal camping on public or private property in the City of Spokane, call 311.

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