Police caution residents against confronting homeless campers
Wednesday, September 20th 2017, 9:14 pm AKDT by
Wednesday, September 20th 2017, 9:41 pm AKDT
As homeless camps encroach on Anchorage neighborhoods and parks, frustration is growing among residents. After a report of citizens and a municipal official coming across a homeless person wielding a machete, Anchorage Police are telling residents not to confront the unwelcome visitors.
During an Anchorage Assembly committee meeting on homelessness Wednesday, Roger's Park resident Linda Chase told committee members, people in her neighborhood no longer feel safe because of homeless camps.
She told them about one that popped up about a week ago, on the median separating Northern Lights and Benson Boulevard, behind the midtown Fred Meyer, saying when her husband tried to take a photo of the new camp to report it, two men inside threatened him and followed him back to his car.
The camp is visible from the road and just a short walk from homes and an elementary school.
"They can panhandle, they can drink, they can do dope, they can do whatever they want in front of the whole community, and they can steal things, they can threaten people, and there's no consequence," Chase told KTVA during an interview across the street from the camp.
APD Lt. Jack Carson told the committee, work is happening behind the scenes. He said three weeks ago, the department had posted notices at 100 percent of all homeless camps reported to the municipality. But because of a court ruling, officers have to give homeless people 14 days to clear out.
Often times, as soon as a camp leaves one area, it appears in another nearby.
Near Bean's Cafe Wednesday morning, several tents were pitched along the sidewalk, one with a couch next to it. A man who only wanted to be identified by his first name, "Will," told KTVA he slept there the night before, and police regularly tell him he can't.
"They come periodically and pretty much harass us. We pitch down our tent and rebuild it do the same thing the next day, or if not, a couple hours later," he explained.
While Lt. Carson says he understands community frustration, he cautioned residents against taking the situation into their own hands.
"I don't recommend that citizens go into camps and try and rush them on," said Lt. Carson, reminding citizens they don't have the right to enforce trespassing laws on land they don't own.
Assemblymember Eric Croft told the committee he is working to draft an ordinance that would change the waiting period from 14 to seven days.