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Davis Journal

West Bountiful passes new overnight camping ordinance

May 31, 2024 09:34AM ● By Simon Mortensen
West Bountiful City recently passed Ordinance #486-24 – prohibiting overnight camping on public property within the city. Courtesy photo

West Bountiful City recently passed Ordinance #486-24 – prohibiting overnight camping on public property within the city. Courtesy photo

Taking preventative measures against a rising problem, West Bountiful's City Council passed a law to prohibit public property camping during their meeting on May 7.

Titled Ordinance #486-24, the law states that “no person may camp in or upon any public property, nor any property owned by other governmental entities that have posted notice prohibiting camping.” A violation of the ordinance could be charged with a misdemeanor, according to West Bountiful’s Chief of Police Brandon Erekson. 

“We’ve seen an increase [in urban camping] around this entire south end of people coming in trying to camp at businesses or within parks,” Erekson said. “We decided that we would try to adopt an ordinance to help, kind of, in the event that we needed any sort of enforcement.”

During the meeting, Erekson brought up an encounter police had with an obstinate camper in a school bus that had been converted into a shelter. Erickson says that law enforcement’s focus on issues related to overnight camping is to direct people to shelters and facilities that can help them.

While these instances are uncommon in West Bountiful, he says that some individuals did try to camp at the city's park on 1600 North as well as trailheads. According to Erekson, the individual in the school bus was “moving around to different neighborhoods.”

The timing of this ordinance coincides with Supreme Court discussions over the constitutionality of anti-camping ordinances. Critics of these laws cite the eighth amendment in their arguments – noting that issuing civil citations to people who camp but have nowhere else to go constitutes as cruel and unusual punishment. West Bountiful's City Council says that it will amend the ordinance to align with potential Supreme Court decisions if needed.

Along with decisions regarding overnight camping, West Bountiful has recently passed updated parking laws. On April 2, the City Council replaced their previous codes with Ordinance #482-24. Erekson says that the update helps prevent vehicle owners from parking their vehicles on the side of the road for an excessive amount of time.

“Just like any law, [these ordinances] provide us an avenue for enforcement action if we need to take it.” Erekson said. “Our approach has always been educate first before we would result to issuing a citation.”

City ordinances prohibit vehicles from parking for more than 48 hours on a street except for in winter – when street parking is prohibited during the hours of 12 a.m. - 7 a.m. from Nov. 15 to April 1. Erekson said that the ordinances provide some extended time during the holiday season.

West Bountiful’s police department was recently awarded a Professional Standards Accreditation plaque from the Utah Chiefs of Police Association. Delivered to Erekson by the association’s executive director Val Shupe, the accolade notes that the department has met all standards on a list of 174 items.

During the presentation, Erekson said that West Bountiful was able to meet the standards within one year – a task that Shupe says takes many departments over three years to complete.