Hidden in a vacant, wooded lot near Ben White and South Congress is the path to what was a homeless neighborhood. Officers shut it down several days ago. KVUE went along as they checked to make sure the occupants were following orders.
The KVUE crew saw shopping carts loaded down with belongings and only a few remaining tents. It was home to at least a dozen people.
Officers shared photos that they snapped after finding the camp. Officers think some people had been living there for years.
"They'd obviously been there for a long time. They'd put makeshift landscaping with local rocks around their tents, with welcome signs and yard art,” said APD Lt. Paul Christ.
The camp was so large the tops of tents can even be seen from a Google satellite map.
APD Lt. Paul Christ says the camp went under the radar of police until recently, when nearby businesses complained of thefts.
"The air conditioning units were being tampered with, copper being stolen, compressors being stolen,” Christ said.
A business owner in the industrial park lining the camp estimates property thieves cost her $6,000 in six weeks.
Upon closer inspection, officers found piles of scrap metal, bikes, bike tires and computer parts.
"People are panhandling during the day. At night there's a lot of petty thefts going on,” Christ said.
To hit every angle, police are also going after panhandlers in the area. While a KVUE crew was with them, they arrested a man who was given a no trespassing warning at the camp last week. Officers spotted him panhandling in the roadway nearby. He was taken to jail for 13 outstanding warrants.
If he or anyone else attempts to return to the camp, Christ says officers will be waiting.
"We're gonna go in, we're gonna chase them out of town,” Christ said.
As you can imagine, the area is littered with trash and some hazardous materials. According to code enforcement, AISD is the property owner. The school district will be responsible for cleaning it up.