Police in Park City plan sweep of hillside encampments | ParkRecord.com

Police in Park City plan sweep of hillside encampments

The Park City Police Department on Wednesday investigated an encampment found on the edge of the Prospector neighborhood. The police say people living in encampments risk their safety in cold temperatures. There is also a danger of campfires igniting the nearby brush, the police say.

The Park City Police Department has started attempting to contact people believed to be living in encampments on the edge of the Prospector neighborhood with the hopes of convincing them to move into safer quarters as winter approaches.

There have been reports of encampments recently on the hillsides close to Prospector, close to the Rail Trail. In one of the cases, on the evening of Sept. 27, someone told the police they found what appeared to be a homeless encampment in a wooded area close to a trail off Comstock Drive. A little less than a month later, on Oct. 23, a small fire was found off the Rail Trail and makeshift bedding was discovered nearby.

The Police Department and the Park City Fire District on Tuesday, meanwhile, responded to a report of someone seeing smoke in Prospector. The police in an online posting said officers discovered a man, described as homeless, camping on a hillside. He started a campfire, the police said. The police also said another encampment was found close to the 1900 block of Prospector Avenue.

The online posting indicated people at both of the locations were told officials have scheduled what was described as a cleanup next week.

Phil Kirk, a police captain, said investigators believe there are two or three campsites on hillsides near Prospector, including locations close to the Lost Prospector trail. Up to several people could be living in each of the campsites, he said. Kirk said the authorities are concerned for the safety of the people as temperatures drop and heavy snow eventually arrives.

"This presents a real health concern to them," Kirk said, adding, "We're concerned about how harsh our winters could be for somebody living outside, exposed to the elements."

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Kirk said there is also a concern someone living in an encampment will start fires for warmth that could spread to the wooded areas nearby.

The operation planned next week will involve at least two officers at any one time to ensure their safety. Kirk said the officers will be "encouraging them to obtain safer housing or accommodation." He said officers will inform the people they find of municipal laws against camping in the city limits. Officers will issue verbal and written warnings to people found to be violating the law against camping, Kirk said.

The Police Department also wants to learn the circumstances that led to someone living in an encampment, he said. The police will provide information about resources available through the Christian Center of Park City, which operates a food pantry, as well as resources for the homeless in the Salt Lake Valley.