The City of Aberdeen will begin enforcing the sit/lie and public camping ordinances beginning today. Mayor Erik Larson said during a special council meeting last night, “What that will look like is violations of the public camping and sit/lie ordinances would be civil citations, amount of $25. Failure to address the non-compliance will constitute a public nuisance, for which criminal charges could be brought.”
After spending the Summer in Federal court with the two ordinances suspended, the city was told recently that they could begin enforcing the ordinances once again, partly under the conditions that the city created with the Temporary Alternative Shelter Location, where a person has somewhere to go and the city is not effectively outlawing homelessness. Since early September the city has been notifying possible offenders of the ordinances that they plan to begin enforcement again on October 1st.
The issue is still in some courts, and a nationwide solution has not been adopted or presented -but for now, the city plans to enforce the two ordinances first with civil citations, then with criminal charges if the issue persists as a public nuisance.
Police Chief Steve Shumate pointed out last night that people camping on private property are trespassing, and should be reported as soon as possible.
A press release from the city on Tuesday morning said that after a hearing before Judge Ronald B. Leighton on September 13th, the court has vacated the temporary restraint on enforcement of Public Camping (AMC 12.46), Sidewalk Laws (AMC 12.44.040), and Sit-Lie (AMC 12.41) ordinances.
Following the hearing, the affected ordinances are in-force effective immediately. The Aberdeen Police Department has been providing a grace period for enforcement, issuing warnings for non-compliance until October 1st, but will now begin active enforcement and citing violations. Violations of the Public Camping and Sit-Lie ordinances are civil infractions and not subject to arrest or criminal prosecution. In accordance with our Public Camping ordinance (AMC 12.46) if there is no available overnight shelter, public camping on portions of any street right-of-ways that are not expressly reserved for vehicular or pedestrian travel is not enforceable. The City of Aberdeen is currently working on a larger temporary shelter to ensure overnight shelter is available for the known number of homeless persons in the City, and full enforcement of Public Camping ordinances may be maintained.
The area identified in the Sit-Lie ordinance (AMC 12.41) is additionally restricted to public camping between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:00 am. In addition to civil penalties, individuals maintaining an encampment in violation of the Public Camping and Sit-Lie ordinances may also be found to be maintaining a public nuisance in violation of the Public Nuisance code (AMC 8.08) and be subject to criminal charges and removal of the encampment subject to abatement procedures and policies.
Individuals camping on private property without permission of the owner are subject to trespass, and we ask any encampment on private property be immediately reported to the Aberdeen Police Department.