Crime

Bellingham officer’s video, taken on Sehome Hill, highlights homeless camp cleanup

Bellingham Police clean up homeless camp on Sehome Hill

Bellingham Police officer Eric Osterkamp tours a homeless camp on Sehome Hill in Bellingham, Washington and explains the process of cleaning it up.
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Bellingham Police officer Eric Osterkamp tours a homeless camp on Sehome Hill in Bellingham, Washington and explains the process of cleaning it up.

Another video taken by a Bellingham police officer shows the cleanup of a homeless encampment near Sehome High School.

Neighborhood Officer Eric Osterkamp with the Bellingham Police Department posted the two videos from the camp Wednesday to Nextdoor.com, a private social media website for neighborhoods.

In the post, Osterkamp said he shot the videos in response to increasing interest from residents about what the camps look like and how the city cleans them up.

“These illegal campsites are typical of the hundreds of sites I have visited over the last few years throughout this city,” Osterkamp wrote. “We usually become aware of these illegal camps when residents or business owners call 911 to complain about suspicious activity.”

Osterkamp shared a similar video last month of a camp in Whatcom Falls Park.

In the first of two videos released Wednesday, which The Bellingham Herald edited into a single video and posted to its website with permission from BPD, Osterkamp walks through the camp just off Bill McDonald Parkway, northeast of Sehome High School.

The video shows a wooded area littered with trash, drug paraphernalia and what police suspect are stolen items taken from open garages, Osterkamp explains in his narration. Osterkamp’s walk-through shows two camps situated a few paces apart.

Police, he said, had contacted staff with the Opportunity Council, a nonprofit organization that serves low-income and homeless people. The agency reached out to campers days before the cleanup was scheduled, and the camps were empty on the day of the cleanup.

Among the clutter, Osterkamp points out bicycle frames and needles strewn about the ground amid a tent and tarps. In one area Osterkamp estimated at about 10 square feet, officers found about 100 needles, he says.

At the other nearby camp, he points to more suspected drug paraphernalia, including protective caps used on syringes and a plunger from a needle.

“In this camp, you can’t smell it, but it definitely reeks of feces and other types of human body odors,” Osterkamp says.

The second portion of video shows Osterkamp standing along Bill McDonald Parkway as workers, including some from Bellingham’s Public Works Department, clean out the camp using mechanical grabber tools and trash bins.

A large truck parked nearby would be full by the time they were finished, Osterkamp says.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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