Boat owners blame homeless camp for recent burglaries

SEATTLE -- Local boat owners are blaming a Seattle homeless camp for a recent rash of break-ins at their marina.

Tucked into a berth along the Duwamish River, Dan Simmons considered his boat a safe and secure refuge. That all changed last week when he and his companion, Denise, discovered someone had broken in overnight.

"It makes us feel helpless," Simmons said.

The boat was ransacked and the thieves made off with a flat screen television, but Simmons is just as upset over what the burglars left behind. In addition to used syringes, Simmons said the uninvited guests left their dirty underwear inside the boat.

"They stripped down naked, and left their dirty underwear, filthy, stinky clothes and underwear and took his clothes and shoes," he said.

Simmons suspects the thief or thieves wandered over from the nearby Nickelsville homeless camp.

"We have a haven for criminals and drug addicts just a few blocks away," he said.

The camp has generated controversy since it moved onto a piece of city-owned land a few years ago.

Many Nickelsville residents say they've grown accustomed to the allegations.

"I can't say I wouldn't probably think the same thing, but being here, I don't believe it is us," said Treasa Sides.

Sides said the camp works hard to be a good neighbor, using its own security and a strict code of conduct. She also said many homeless people not affiliated with the camp live closer to the marina.

"I'm not sure who it is, but we're just not that way," Sides said.

Simmons said he's armed himself and is now spending at least three nights a week keeping guard on his boat. He also said it would be hard to convince him that the prowlers aren't coming from Nickelsville.

"I know there's good, honest people there, but I believe that's what's happening," he said.

Fewer than 20 boats are moored at the private marina, and the owners say prowlers have broken into at least four boats in the past couple of weeks.