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Utah County seeing more homeless camps

UTAH COUNTY – County officials say they’re dealing with a growing homeless problem, especially in places like Provo Canyon.  The Sheriff’s Office is looking into asking the County Commission to make an ordinance that might limit where homeless people can camp.

Over the past year, and especially with the last three or four months, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office has seen a dramatic rise in the number of homeless camps.  Along with the trash, abandoned tents, needles and human waste that are frequently left behind when the camper leaves the area, they’re also seeing a rise in the number of car burglaries near these camps.  Officials say they’ve found stolen property in some of these camps.

However, there’s not much sheriff’s deputies can do to clear these camps.  Lieutenant Yvette Rice says, “Right now, we don’t have a county ordinance for county properties that specifically deals with overnight camping.”

Rice says they don’t want to discourage people from coming into the canyons for recreational camping, though.  “We want our citizens and we want visitors to enjoy the beauty of our canyons.  They’re beautiful canyons.  But, there has to be a balance.  We’ve got to figure out what’s a reasonable amount of time where people can overnight camp,” she says.

Officials at the top level of the sheriff’s office are hoping any potential ordinance will set a limit on the amount of timer someone can stay in one spot, plus, they hope it will have more guidelines on how the camper will clean up after leaving. Sheriff Mike Forshee says they’re working with one commissioner to see how the ordinance could be drafted, but, there’s no estimated timeline for when it would happen.  He says, “I’m sure all of the commissioners will see what they like and see what they don’t like, come back to the county attorney and back to us to see what becomes enforceable.”