Camp sites get clean sweep

Law enforcement officers from the King County Sheriff's Office, Washington Department of Natural Resources, U.S.

Law enforcement officers from the King County Sheriff’s Office, Washington Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and State Patrol joined forces last Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29, to make their presence known in the recreation areas along the Interstate 90 corridor and in the unincorporated areas of King County.

“This team represents the full gamut on a county, state and federal level,” Sheriff’s Deputy Chad Devore said.

“We’re normally in our own little circle,” he said of the different agencies, which usually work separately. The multi-agency event provided a unique opportunity for law enforcement to patrol with district-wide support.

Ideal summer weather and abundant recreation opportunities draw outdoor enthusiasts from all over the country who expect to enjoy Washington’s natural playground. But these conditions have created an oasis for unchecked criminal goings-ons, Devore said.

“In past years a large portion of our recreational areas have been plagued by criminal activity,” he said. By doing a multi-agency sweep, the five agencies hoped to set a positive tone for the rest of the season.

The weekend’s statistics will be used to encourage a repeat of the event next year.

Events like these are difficult to coordinate when budgets run low, but the sheriff’s office agreed to the project and each agency paid for the service of their own employees. Each incident will be compiled into a statistical report, which may help to spur another off-road-vehicle patrol of these unincorporated areas.

Making their presence known in these recreation areas is one of the best ways to prevent crime, said Devore.

“We want all recreationists to enjoy the area.”

As the officers made their way up the Middle Fork, an older man stopped to report the vandalism of his car.

“This happens a lot,” said Chris Rankin, an officer with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, noting that many people stop to report thefts. Other visitors asked for directions to nearby hot springs.

During the two-day sweep, the group contacted 434 individuals, made three arrests, and issued more than two dozen violations including nine for reckless shooting, six for unauthorized camping, three for littering, two for firework discharges, two for tree cutting and firewood harvesting and a reckless fire, among others. The team also participated in three search and rescue operations.

Deputy Brent Naylor thinks their presence has made a difference. A few years ago there was meth manufacturing in the hills. People would produce meth in their cars and in makeshift shacks, Naylor said.

To deter problems, “it helps to have increased visibility,” he said.