Pierce County cleans up '35 tons' of waste at homeless encampment, sheriff's department says

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Some business owners in Puyallup are thanking the county after a homeless encampment thought to contribute to a theft problem was removed earlier this month.

Pierce County sheriff's deputies said multiple agencies worked to clean up the encampment in the area of Canyon Road and State Route 512. The encampment was a source of crime and waste, deputies said.

"This week we are hoping you will also notice a decrease in criminal activity and solid waste in the same area," deputies said in a Facebook post.

Cleanup of the area took about 300 man hours and 35 tons of solid waste was removed, deputies said. Deputies said the particular encampment was targeted due to a "high volume of calls and complaints" from businesses.

"In 2017 our deputies responded to 90 calls for service at just one of the stores for crimes including shoplifting, vehicle prowls, loitering/panhandling, littering, trespassing, people sleeping in cars, dumped vehicles, and people urinating on sidewalks," deputies said.

Business owners in the area praised the cleanup, saying theft in the area had long been a problem spot.

"The theft has been an issue," said Michael Mecklenburg of McLendon Hardware in Puyallup. "They'll steal axes, machetes, camping gear, a lot of camping gear."

The encampment was there for well over a year, Mecklenburg said, but it really started to become troublesome about six months ago.

"It would catch on fire," he said of the encampment.

Business have seen less theft in the area since the cleanup, Mecklenburg said.

"In our eyes we're thrilled with it," he said. "It's not like they're just kicking them out. They're asking them if they want help, they're asking if they want jobs."