Rusty Rae/News-Register##McMinnville police Capt. Tim Symons, Officer Justin Brenner, Officer Robert Harmon and Officer Mike Maierhofer confiscate Kim Wood’s tent Wednesday on N.E. Dustin Court.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##McMinnville police Capt. Tim Symons, Officer Justin Brenner, Officer Robert Harmon and Officer Mike Maierhofer confiscate Kim Wood’s tent Wednesday on N.E. Dustin Court.
By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Police clean up at Dustin Court encampment

McMinnville police confiscated a tent on Dustin Court Wednesday and took it to their evidence facility site -- along with an unanticipated passenger.
Apparently unbeknown to the police, the tent was occupied by a small dog named Rocko.

Once they discovered they scooped up Rocko by mistake, Capt. Rhonda Jaasko said police returned what she described as the “cute little friendly Pomeranian” to Kim Wood.

That tent was the only one confiscated Wednesday, despite police issuing warnings about arrests and confiscations to people camping along Dustin Court Tuesday.

Written notices warned people they risked being arrested for disorderly conduct if they didn’t clear their tents and other belongings off the public street.
Ultimately, no arrests were made.

Police did clear out several plastic garbage bins of personal items and assorted debris.

Michael Brickey, who has been living in a tent with his wife on Dustin Court for the past month, said he didn’t mind the threats.

“If they arrest me, they arrest me,” said Brickey. “There’s nothing I can about it. It’s not the first time the’ve threatened to arrest me.”

Campers were given until 10 a.m. Wednesday to comply with the police warning. By early afternoon, seven officers were taking items off the street and putting them in garbage bins provided by Recology Western Oregon.

Jaasko, who led the operation, said police hoped to avoid arrests.

“Our goal here is not to take people to jail, it’s to get the tent campers off the street,” she said.

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Debbie Miller and Justin Walker embrace while Mac police ensure all tents are off public streets at the Dustin Court where RVs are camped out.

People will be able to retrieve their belongings within the next 30 days, Jackso said. When they do, she added, they must store them off public streets and right of ways.

“You can’t pitch a tent on Third Street, and you can’t pitch a tent here,” said Jaasko. “There’s no difference between the two.”

Jaasko said Wednesday the operation wouldn’t take longer than the afternoon. “That’s why I have a lot of officers here,” she said.

As of Thursday morning, there were still tents pitched along the street. However, they had moved off the actual street and moved five feet back to a vacant lot owned by local builder and storage business owner Dean Klaus.

Klaus could not be reached for comment.

Unless Klaus objects to people pitching tents on the edge of his property, Jaasko said the campers are off the street and in compliance with the law. They will not be arrested or have their belongings confiscated, she said.

Brickey said he understands police are only trying to enforce the law.

“It’s just the way they do it that bothers me,” he said.

He accused police of sometimes becoming overly aggressive with the RV dwellers and tent campers who have taken up seemingly permanent residence across from Yamhill Community Action Partnership, Brickey said.

They tone down their behavior when people begin filming them with cellphones or members of the press show up, he said. “They don’t like cameras or press or anything like that.”

Jacob Miller, who has become the de facto leader of the makeshift community, said police would accomplish more if they worked with people rather than posting threats and issuing orders.

“It’s like me wanting my wife to make me breakfast every morning and threatening every day,” Miller said. “That’s not going to go over very well.”

Miller and his wife, Valerie, have been helping their neighbors pick up trash and occasionally picking up the garbage bill. People have been cooperative, Miller said.

“It was as easy as communicating with everyone,” he said. “I didn’t have to threaten anyone.”

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Jacob Miller, the unofficial leader of the Dustin Court settlement, reacts to the order from the county that brought McMinnville police into the little RV community.

Repercussions of disorderly conduct charges ring particularly hollow, he added. “A big part of disorderly conduct is intention,” he said. “I don’t think anyone intentionally wants to be homeless.”

Miller seems to have gained respect from both the campers and the police.

“It looks better today than yesterday,” Jaasko said as she surveyed the street Wednesday afternoon. “Jacob has been doing his best.”

No one seemed displaced by the police department’s action, but if they were, Jaasko said officers would do what they could to connect them with the appropriate social services.

“We do our best to connect people with the services they need,” she said.

Living conditions on Dustin Court became more cramped when officials at McMinnville Water & Light decided to install new street lights near their headquarters on Northeast Marsh Lane.

RV dwellers and tent campers living on Marsh Lane were given until Oct. 30 to move or have their vehicles towed and their belongings confiscated.

Many moved across Northeast Riverside Drive to Dustin Court. John Dietz, the general manager of McMinnville Power & Light, said last week the lights would be installed by Friday.

As of Wednesday, the street remained clear. 

Jaasko said she’s not sure if combining the populations of Marsh Lane and Dustin Court has caused any increase in police calls.

“I don’t know if there’s been a spike,” she said. “It’s just that the people from Marsh Lane have moved over here, and now we’re responding here instead of both places.”

While campers were moving from Marsh Lane, Water & Light personnel were also reportedly clearing out grass and brush and discarding large amounts of trash on the utility’s property adjacent to the South Yamhill River and Joe Dancer Park.

Miller said the work displaced the homeless people living by the river.

“There were people back there who woke up to that,” he said.

Brickey said he never thought he would find himself living in a tent along Dustin Court.

“This was supposed to be temporary,” he said. “I used to own my own business and had a house, but life happened, and I lost everything and had to start over again.”

His wife spent six days in jail for theft of services after using the electrical outlets at a business in Newberg for charging her cellphone, Brickey said.



I know the job of the local paper is to report news for the community. I do wish you could stop printing pictures of my brother ( Justin Walker ). It is extremely devistating to my family specially his children. I know he is a huge part of the homeless problem, but what he needs is help not pictures.