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SPD now enforcing ‘no trespass’ at I-5 encampments

(Image: Bryan Cohen)

(Image: Bryan Cohen)

On Sunday, CHS wrote about the many homeless encampments along Capitol Hill’s I-5 shores, how they’re affecting some residents on First Hill, and the hundreds of thousands of dollars the state spends to clear the camps only to have campers return hours later.

City and state “no trespassing” signs dot the landscape along I-5 in the Central Area, and a Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson told CHS that enforcement is typically handled by the state.

CHS has confirmed Seattle Police can also now enforce no trespassing on these tracts of land without the presence of a state official. In June, SPD signed an agreement with the state allowing officers to patrol the property. Oftentimes a property owner needs to be present on their property to report trespassing. Moreover, SPD has the authority to respond to 911 calls at any property within the city.

A spokesperson for SPD said he was unclear why the agreement happened when it did, but said the department frequently makes similar agreements with other governmental agencies.

UPDATE: The administrative agreement was struck as part of SPD’s ongoing efforts at more humane homeless outreach, said SPD spokesperson Jonah Spangenthal-Lee. Prior to the changes made in June, Spangenthal-Lee said the “trespass enforcement authorizations” were done piecemeal on state property within the city.

Beyond complaints of an uptick in criminal activity and trash around the campsites, many of them are unsafe, perched on ledges above I-5 or uphill from busy off-ramps. A WSDOT spokesperson told CHS that enforcing trespassing was primarily about safety.

How to enforce trespassing, whether on a patch of unused land above an I-5 or in front of a Pike/Pine business, has been a source of confusion for law enforcement and property owners in the past.

In 2011 the city’s Contract Trespass Program was changed after it faced a civil rights lawsuit for unfairly targeting homeless people. In the old program, officers could show up at participating businesses and kick people out. If that person stepped back on the property, they would be arrested. In the reformed approach, offenders are given a written warning describing the specific behavior that got them into trouble with the business. The person is free to return — provided the bad behavior doesn’t.

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17 thoughts on “SPD now enforcing ‘no trespass’ at I-5 encampments

  1. Move the encampments to a central location in SODO. Done. They shouldn’t be camped out anyway near the freeway and please… enough of the panhandling. I have to work for a living – so do they!

  2. Here’s another idea: the City actually remove brush and the hiding areas of where these encampments are. Expose these areas and I’ll bet they won’t come back. Also remove the garbage and dispose of it properly.

  3. I hope this new approach works.

    I have traveled and worked in some fairly poor countries (much less rich than the US, at least), but the stretch of I-5 through downtown takes the cake for visible squalor, unsanitary conditions, and crazily unsafe living arrangements (for drivers too…these campers sometimes cross the freeway on foot to get ‘home’).

    Ample space needs to be provided in officially sanctioned (and managed) tent cities so that these encampments can be permanently dismantled in a way that provides squatters with a legal and safe alternative. The Seattle of my childhood was less wealthy and probably had fewer resources for the homeless than today, but I never once saw the overwhelming piles of trash or dudes laying deuces in WSDOT’s downtown ROWs (yep, I really saw that from the bus).

    More like Stockholm, less like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road please.

  4. Have you ever noticed how cities with a similar population don’t have a fraction of the homeless population that we do? Did you know that Seattle spends more tax dollars on homeless programs then almost any other city in this country?

    While driving to work I frequently see city trucks accompanied by police “evicting” and cleaning up the homeless camps along Jackson, around I-5 and on Airport Way. The very next morning the camps are right back where they were the day before. How much are we paying for multiple city agencies to go through this fruitless routine?

    Why do Seattle tax payers have to pay more money then other cities on these programs but our city is a crumbling dump? I’m just so confused. IT ISN’T WORKING.

    • It’s because none of the criminals doing this suffer any consequences, such as the loss of freedom for flagrant repeat offenses.

      They’re criminals because they are breaking laws. Establish a safe and legal alternative, and then prosecute those who deliberately break the law. Without consequences, why expect changes in behavior? All we’re doing is periodically clearing the trash from their campsites at enormous cost to the taxpayer. Are these encampments legal or not?

    • The only solution that works is “housing first” and the mayor and everyone on the city council knows that. It pays for itself eventually (look up what they’re doing in Salt Lake City), but the up front cost is high.

  5. Stop the whack-a-mole. Remove the welcome mat. These individuals by and large are con men and parasites. Whether their addictions are choice or victim, I don’t care. I agree with the commenter who has traveled the world to less affluent societies and never have seen anything approaching what we now endure. Seattle is a magnet to anti-social types. They don’t as a group need more of our resources and involuntary charity. They need to be shown the door. Destroy the illegal encampments day after day if need be. No tent cities. No camp sites.

  6. Talk about your fruitless efforts. Poor SPD officers having to spend time dealing with something that will yield no result. What will happen? Fines? Jail time? This just simply moves people in circles without solving any underlying issues.

    While we can hope this tactic works, I’m doubtful it will change/improve anything for anyone.

  7. Maybe Mayor Murray should spend a little less time sightseeing on our dime in the Middle East and a little more time on proposing what we should do to combat this problem. The status quo isn’t beneficial to anyone, homeless included.

  8. It’s criminal to be alive and not have enough money to pay exorbitant rents and be part of consumer culture! What good are you then? Perhaps we should look to Hitler for a “final solution” to this unfortunate problem of poverty inconveniencing our day.

    (The previous paragraph contained extreme sarcasm) It’s so easy to see how fascism can happen here, even in “liberal Seattle”.

    • BS. The only facts we know are what we see. The behaviors. Have you spoken to any of these men and women about their income, their origins, their stories? If so, have you verified anything you have been told? To reduce this to poverty is simple and likely wrong. To invoke Hitler as a way to shut down the issue is shameful. It is not fascist to kick out of town scammers and thieves (do you think the bicycles they seem to have were purchased?). Civility is a two way obligation. These miscreants are taking full advantage of a naive populace.

  9. For being homeless they sure do generate a lot of garbage which they just dispose of by throwing it on the ground. That is why these encampments are so bad the campers have no concern about littering, many are probably addicts who don’t like staying in the shelters cause they can’t drink and drug in there.