JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville is investigating one of several homeless camps that News4Jax was told are hidden away in wooded areas near Mayport.
On Thursday, a witness told News4Jax that he saw a man taking a bicycle. The witness said he decided to follow the man and discovered a homeless camp with dozens of bicycles and thousands of dollars' worth of equipment and other items.
The witness said the startling discovery was made sometime Monday morning at a lot situated off Mayport Road near Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.
“When a homeless person has all their possessions at the camp, you’re taking everything that belongs to them -- whether they stole it or not -- and you’re throwing it in dumpsters and they get really upset,” said a Mayport Road property manager of a different location, who did not wish to be identified.
The property manager down the road told News4Jax on Friday that she had the same issue in March. She said there was a homeless camp filled with stolen items on her property and she spent more than $23,000 to clean up the mess.
“We had to get a commercial dumpster, 40-yard container, that we emptied four times and a crew to remove all of the debris,” the property manager said.
A spokesperson for the city of Jacksonville told News4Jax that a code enforcement officer, with the assistance of an Atlantic Beach utility supervisor who happened to be in the area, located the property on Friday afternoon. They were met by another officer, who said he was aware of the issues and Naval Station Mayport has already started to remove some of the items, according to the spokesperson.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said when he was an officer, he patrolled these camps and the same things that were going on then are happening now.
Jefferson said although the responsibility is on the property owner, it can be difficult to monitor and force people out.
“It’s an endless cycle. These people are unfortunate that they’re homeless. They have no place that they can call home, so sometimes, they move from one place to another,” he said.
Jefferson said people should not take matters into their own hands, and property owners and managers should call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and City Code Enforcement for help.