(EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.) — The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) said the rise in crime and violence in and around homeless camps in El Paso County, specifically in the Stratmoor Hills area near B Street, inspired a judge to order a recent cleanup by Code Enforcement and EPSO personnel.

According to EPSO, crime involving occupants of homeless camps in unincorporated El Paso County have recently led to a homicide and other violent crime, as well as a structure fire that would have endangered private property owners and businesses in the area of B Street, if not for the quick efforts of the Stratmoor Hills Fire Department and other responding agencies. 

EPSO said the challenge governmental agencies have faced recently with this set of camps is the fact that they were erected on private property, and their construction was either actively or passively permitted by the property owner or owners. Outside of judge-ordered civil action, law enforcement has been prevented any immediate, proactive enforcement or cleanup of the camps.

However, in November 2022, as a result of civil action filed by the County Attorney’s Office in district court, with the goal of furthering public safety and enforcing county codes, a judge ordered Code Enforcement and EPSO personnel to go onto these private properties on which the problematic homeless camps were erected and clear them out. 

EPSO said as a result, a month-long joint effort concluded on Thursday, Dec. 29 involving El Paso County Code Enforcement and EPSO personnel that resulted in all but one of the camps situated along B Street and in Stratmoor Hills having been removed and cleaned up.  The final remaining camp is set to be cleared out in January of 2023, EPSO said.

 EPSO reminded the community that anyone facing homelessness can reach out to any number of homeless shelters or long-term housing assistance programs offered in the area. For immediate housing needs, there were just under 100 shelter beds available at the Springs Rescue Mission located at 5 West Las Vegas Street in the City of Colorado Springs, as of Dec 29.