Everyday community service officers for Redding's Neighborhood Police Unit (NPU) are driving around the city cleaning up trash left behind in illegal campsites.
“The goal of this is twofold,” Redding police officer Al Mellon said. “It's one to make people aware that there is a municipal code in the City of Redding that prohibits camping. And then as far as the cleanup, it's basically to stay on top of the debris and garbage that would accumulate if we didn't do that.”
Tuesday morning and most of the afternoon community service officer Lynn Herreid and his crew filled a trailer with trash from a campsite near Bechelli Lane and Hartnell Avenue.
“Hundreds to thousands of pounds per week, and obviously thousands of pounds of garbage per month,” that’s how much trash crews collect, Mellon said.
This site in particular was a priority for the crew because it's located on a creek which can wash trash and debris into the Sacramento River.
Some have questioned the effectiveness of these camp cleanups saiding it just moves the people living there into other locations.
But often times, officers are accompanied by outreach officers who try and help the people living in the camps.
“They go to some of the same places we go,” Mellon said. “Sometimes they actually follow us. There's not an enforcement capacity to that job, but it is to where they're doing some outreach and providing services or making people aware of services that are available to them.”
Mellon and Herreid said if they didn't do this constantly, it would be much more difficult to police the situation.
“We're staying on top of the complaints that are coming to us as well as the cleanups,” Mellon said. “We're not solving the problem, but I think with the new prosecutor coming into the district attorney's office and maybe a little more aggressive prosecution, that might turn the table for us a little bit.”
Mellon said the cleanups are complaint-driven.
He said the best thing residents can do if they observe someone camping illegally is to file a complaint on the city's website.