Aberdeen Police to begin enforcing public camping and sit-lie laws

Originally posted 10-1-19

Aberdeen, WA – The City of Aberdeen plans to begin enforcing Public Camping and other laws immediately that had been put on hold.

Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson issued a statement saying that following a hearing before Judge Ronald B. Leighton on September 13th that vacated the temporary restraint on enforcement of laws that impact the homeless population and others within the city, they are prepared to begin enforcing those laws.

The City enacted ordinances involving Public Camping (AMC 12.46), Sidewalk Laws (AMC 12.44.040), and Sit-Lie (AMC 12.41), although a decision from the Judge had forced the city to hold off on enforcement until the city complied with certain requirements. This order followed the landmark Martin v. Boise decision that restricted cities from criminalizing items that appeared to target homelessness if there were not other options available.

Larson says that 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. 

Larson says that with the work of the City of Aberdeen on a larger temporary shelter, this would 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 downtown area identified in the Sit-Lie ordinance (AMC 12.41) will also be restricted to public camping between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

In addition to civil penalties, Larson added that anyone 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.

Larson said that they ask residents to report any encampment on private property be immediately reported to the Aberdeen Police Department.