‘Not a safe place’: Police say crime is up 58% near Camp Hope, business owners overwhelmed with damage

SPOKANE, Wash. – A homeless camp in East Central is growing in more ways than one: people and crime.

Camp Hope is located off I-90 by the Fred Meyer on Thor Street. It’s been growing in size, and police say there’s also been a crime spike.

The Spokane Police Department says crime is up 58% compared to the same time last year within a quarter-mile of the camp. In just four months — there have been 854 incidents in that area, according to police.

Local business owners can’t get away from the problems nearby.

“Right now, we’re just taking it day by day,” said Steve Liberty. He owns Liberty Tire and Auto Services which is right across the street from the camp. He’s been at the same location for 30 years and is taking extra steps to protect his property.

He put up a new fence, changed out the doors and locks and spends an extra 45 minutes to lock up. That’s his new normal.

“I think the biggest frustration I have is they’re giving you no indication of fixing the problem or even controlling the problem,” he said.

Police are trying to control the problem by patrolling the area more. SPD increased resources in mid December, but Lori Ferguson, a longtime store manager at a nearby Chevron, isn’t seeing much change.

“People aren’t going to come here and get gas if they know there is someone sleeping out there. Do they feel safe doing so? I don’t think so,” she added.

Mayor Nadine Woodward insists safety is a high priority.

“It’s not a safe place for the community. It’s not safe for the businesses who operate around it, so we are coming up with a solution which is something we have been working on for a long time,” the mayor said.

Woodward says a new shelter provider will be announced soon. The mayor hopes adding more bed space will be a possible solution to this issue, but Liberty says it feels more like a relocation.

“I hate to say it, but we have a problem here. Moving it somewhere else isn’t really fixing the problem,” Liberty said.

Business owners are doing what they can to keep their livelihoods afloat.

“Now, I have a guy that comes in and cleans up all the trash that’s through the lot,” Liberty said. There’s more trash and human waste than he can handle on his own.

They’re left dealing with lots of problems they just want to see go away.

“There needs to be a change, and it has to start somewhere,” Ferguson said.

The City received provider proposals earlier this month and is finalizing exact details for where a new low barrier shelter will go. Woodward also says while this is a low barrier space, she wants to hold people accountable to getting connected with resources that can help them transition out of chronic homelessness.

4 News Now will update this story as more details are released.

READ: ‘It’s not getting any better’: Spokane businesses near homeless shelters want change