Cleanup of transient camps nets thousands of pounds of ‘garbage’

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SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (News4Utah) – More than 25,000 pounds of so-called garbage was removed from the Jordan River Parkway.

It was part of a cleanup effort by South Salt Lake police to get rid of illegal campsites that have been found along the popular recreation area.

“We’re dealing with illegal encampments,” said Chief Jack Carruth. “(There’s)  a large amount of trash, illegal waste”

Six weeks ago, front end loaders were doing another cleanup but not as big as the one conducted Thursday.

“We’ve got 21 camps and I’m going to estimate what’s going out is 25 to 30 pounds of trash.”

Authorities in South Salt Lake said the illegal campsites have become a place to live for the homeless population.  They claimed ever since Operation Rio Grande kicked in, the homeless migrated to places like the parkway.

Along with the littered campsites, police found tools, bike parts, and other items that they believe were stolen and were to be pawned. One officer found a woman’s passport.  He planned to notify that person of the discovery.

But health officials are worried about other problems, like make shift bathrooms.

“(They) are frequently using buckets as a toilet and they will dump the buckets in the river or they will just use the river,” said Jamie Pluta with the South Salt Lake Health Department.

Jason Brown is one of those squatters seen leaving the place he called home.

“This is the only safe place we got,” Brown said.  “I’ve been living here for two years.  But I wouldn’t change it for the world.”  

The police chief said these types of efforts drain resources and keep police off the streets.  

“It’s labor intensive,” he said.

He said the legislature did provide cities like South Salt Lake funding to deal with this kind of issue. Chief Carruth said they will be using that money to hire twelve new officers to patrol the area.  

But he’s also worried about next year.  That’s when a homeless shelter will be opened in South Salt Lake and Carruth worries more homeless will be in the area.

“We need the legislature to keep funding our communities,” he said.

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