Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate

Sheriff's commander pushes for cleanup of public area known for drinking, crime

Shoppers may never notice it, but there's a trash-filled, booze-drinking spot in the brush near the southeast corner of the Walmart parking lot.

Sheriff's Commander Tim Athey is pushing for a cleanup project to curb the public nuisance.

Athey was out with county Supervisor Roger Gitlin on Tuesday to show him the trails of litter, bags of trash, empty alcohol bottles, boots, clothing, empty prescription bottles, makeshift shelters, car seats, syringes, sleeping bags, blankets and other debris littering about a quarter-acre of public land near the store parking lot and Washington Boulevard.

"This is disgusting and it's in our town," said Athey. "I started on this because I got fed up with it."

The spot was well hidden by heavy brush before the Walmart Supercenter expansion last year helped to clear the wooded area running along Walmart's property line, Athey said.

The area mainly seems to be a hangout for certain locals to drink, Athey said.

There have been 22 incidents in which authorities have made contact with people there in the past two months - mainly for disturbances, public intoxication and an occasional fight, he said.

There have been seven arrests in the past two weeks, the majority stemming from outstanding warrants after authorities ran checks on the people they found there, Athey said.

Athey said he recently spotted a drunken man in a tree there.

When he stopped by to talk to the man, he said he spotted four more drunkards on the ground around the tree.

The man in the tree eventually came down after much haggling - and when authorities reviewed IDs, they found all of the drinkers to have residences in Crescent City, Athey said.

"People that come here aren't creating heinous crimes, but they're taking a lot of our time," said Athey.

During the holiday season, Walmart had inventory in freight that was burglarized three times - each time, surveillance video showed the culprit dragging items away into the woods, said store manager Nick Gonnella.

On top of the calls reporting disturbances in the area, deputies make it a point to routinely patrol the spot, Athey said.

The time spent responding to the area can take away from responses to more important crimes, Athey said.

The goal is to have the underbrush cleared after the mounds of waste are picked up, so the area is more visible from the road, Athey said.

"It would deter people from (congregating)," he said.

He said he called on Gitlin, who represents District 1 where the area is, in the hopes that he would direct Code Enforcement Officer Dave Mason to coordinate the cleanup and brush clearing.

Gitlin said Tuesday that the proposed directive would be on the next supervisors agenda.

Walmart has offered to provide Dumpsters, and Alder Camp prisoners could do the cleanup work as long as it is scheduled before fire season, Athey said.

It's one of many areas throughout the county that pose problems for authorities and eyesores for citizens and tourists, he said.

"There are so many places we could be attacking, but we have to start somewhere," said Athey.

Reach Anthony Skeens at