Encampment Trash: Sweetwater River being treated like a dump - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Encampment Trash: Sweetwater River being treated like a dump

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - The Sweetwater River's South Bay river walk is being trashed, apparently by the homeless, and in this Your Stories report, a CBS News 8 viewer wants to know when the trash will be cleaned up.

At first glance, there appears to be a trash problem along the Sweetwater River, across from Plaza Bonita Mall, however it's actually a homeless problem.

The bicycle and jogging trail along the river has long been a problem area for National City Police. A dumpster now sits there permanently to help keep the river clean.

Sergeant Thomas Wilkins is a member of the National City Police Homeless Outreach Team. Sgt. Wilkins showed CBS News 8 the real problem - hidden homeless encampments along the banks of the Sweetwater River.

One homeless encampment had metal gates, wooden doors, patios and junk everywhere.

About every three months, the city conducts clean-up operations in the river, but after a few weeks the encampments spring up again - becoming a hazard to public safety.

"Personally, I've responded to at least two fires that were started by homeless camps," said Sgt. Wilkins.

Sgt. Wilkins hopes a new collaboration with the City of Chula Vista - on the other side of the river - will help solve the problem. In the meantime, he encouraged people to report problem areas using the city's website.

"Just know that we constantly do efforts to come down here to clean this up. The only way we are going to keep it clean is if we are aware if there are carts and trash on the bike path," said Sgt. Wilkins.

National City will conduct another clean up operation at Sweetwater River later this month.

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