Crime - Sacto 911

Placerville police, outreach teams tackle illegal camps

In what Placerville police characterized as an outreach operation, officers accompanied by mental health and community resource representatives removed 14 illegal camps throughout the city.

The Wednesday morning operation focused on known areas of illegal camping and resulted in the removal of camps along Broadway, Placerville Drive, Ray Lawyer Drive and along the El Dorado Trail from Mosquito Road to Schnell School, according to a Police Department news release.

After weeks of extra patrols during which officers advised illegal campers of the need to comply with state and local laws, police and city crews partnered with mental health representatives and members of the Community Resource Center, and returned to the areas frequented by campers. The purpose of the operation, officials said, was to remove illegal camps and to connect those individuals in crisis and wanting help with available services.

Officials described a “restorative policing” effort, in which teams used discretion when evaluating options for dealing with the illegal camps and determining whether mental health assistance, crisis management resources or enforcement best fit the situation.

“Our aim is to balance outreach and enforcement efforts when dealing with habitual transient offenders often afflicted with mental health and drug and alcohol dependencies,” Police Chief Scott Heller said in a written statement. “I believe we struck that balance during today’s operation working with our community partners and were able to make an overall impact for the better.”

A legal camp, Hangtown Haven, which operated as a self-governing tent city for 16 months as part of a pilot program authorized by the Placerville City Council, was forced to close in November when its city permit expired. Although police said the people at Hangtown Haven were not to blame, the tent city was closed in the wake of complaints that the well-publicized effort to aid the homeless also resulted in an influx of transients to the city.

Police reported that 10 individuals were contacted Wednesday in the vicinity of the illegal camps and were offered outreach services.

Several individuals fled camps as teams approached, including one man who, police said, left behind a loaded, shortened shotgun and scoped rifle in an illegal camp on a city resident’s private property above Ray Lawyer and Placerville drives. The individual, Daniel Carpenter, 36, was apprehended a short distance away and found to be a registered sex offender with a no-bail warrant, authorities said.

Another man was arrested after leaving an illegal camp along Broadway when officers arrived. He was contacted by officers a short time later near another illegal camp along the El Dorado Trail. Identified as 20-year-old Caleb Stroud, he was found to have an arrest warrant and was in possession of burglary tools, police reported.

Although many of the camps were removed, considerable trash remained in the targeted areas. Police officials said they will follow up with city crews and interested volunteers to clean up the trash.

Police also said that all the property gathered during the operation was booked into evidence for safekeeping and can be returned by appointment.

They advise anyone with questions regarding the operation or wishing to report an illegal camp may call Sgt. Brody Jordan at (530) 642-5210.