It was an eyesore along I-5 for traffic approaching the Highway 120 Bypass from the Bay Area.
And thanks to the diligent work of San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Deputies Eric Hoover and David Crusenberry, the encampment on the dead-end section of Mossdale Road – located east of I-5 on the opposite side of the freeway from Dell’Osso Farms – is no longer there.
Earlier this month San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow assigned Hoover and Crusenberry to head up the Community Revitalization Unit (CRU) that is focused on homeless outreach and “addressing the inevitable environmental problems that result from long-term homeless encampments.”
After spending several weeks speaking with those that were making the area their home, the cleanup effort was carried out last week and resulted in two massive construction dumpsters being filled up and hauled away.
While the area was technically outside of the coverage area of Lathrop Police Services, it had long been the radar of local officers who were often the first on-scene for a call because of their proximity and their knowledge of those that called the makeshift encampment home.
“It was like a small city down there – they had houseboats out there and everything,” Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann said. “That property has been tied up in foreclosure for a number of years and we didn’t have any trespass letters to go off of, but last month it went up for auction and someone now owns that property and we’re able to work with them to get it cleaned up.”
But the question still lingers – where will those who were removed go now?
According to Biedermann, that’s the question that law enforcement throughout California is having to ponder as they try and balance the autonomy of those in that lifestyle with the law and the quality-of-life crimes that come with it.
The CRU has already notched one victory since being formed on the east side of Stockton where they cleaned up an extensive series of encampments along the Stockton Diverting Canal – which ran from Waterloo Road down across Alpine Street and over to West Lane (Airport Way).
In looking at crime stats since those encampments were removed, Biedermann said, deputies were able to notice that burglary calls in the vicinity of the diverting canal have dropped by 80 percent while reported thefts have declined by 85 percent in the weeks after that area was cleaned up.
With an encampment out near Paradise Cut behind River Islands, Biedermann has been talking with those deputies about keeping an eye on that population and being aware of the issues that are going on out there.
“The problem that everybody faces is – where do they go?” Biedermann said. “Are they going to move into the city area, or are they going to find another secluded spot?
“There are laws that make it difficult to clean those encampments up, but there are also times when it becomes an environmental hazard, and those things have to be considered.
“They’re going to move somewhere, but where is going to be?”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.