EVERETT, Wash. – At the corner of 36th Street and Smith Avenue in Everett, the owner of a high performance car repair shop has installed a live-streaming camera on top of his shop.
It’s aimed at an unsanctioned sidewalk homeless camp across the street. The video stream is currently running 24/7, but the owner is making bigger plans.
“We’ll be adding five more, high definition cameras and it be part of a 24 hours-a-day live streaming YouTube channel called Tweakerville USA,” said Gary Watts, owner of Z Sport Automotive.
“We will run that channel on this particular location as long as it takes in order to change things in Everett, Washington,” Watts added.
Last week, he changed the wording of the electronic sign at his shop at 38th Street and Broadway to read, “Welcome to Tweakerville.” Tweakers is slang for methamphetamine addicts.
According to Everett Police, there has been an on-again, off-again homeless encampment at 36th and Smith Ave. for more than year. It’s no secret to the City of Everett.
Police Chief Dan Templeton said the homeless who live in the area are routinely contacted by the Community Outreach and Enforcement Team ( COET).
COET social workers have been trying to get the street campers into some form of shelter.
For the last year, a City of Everett crew has been cleaning up the garbage and washing away debris three times a week.
Watt’s camera caught Friday’s clean-up and the video shows the street campers re-established their tents in the same spot twenty minutes later.
Templeton says his officers have been going after drug dealers on Smith Ave. and it’s a SODA area, which stands for Stay Out of Designated (Drug) Area. If convicted, drug offenders who are just seen in the area, are subject to arrest.
It’s not enough for Gary Watts.
“City leaders don’t get it, they need to show some tough love,” said Watts. He said his camera is more of a statement to city leaders and the community rather than a spy tool.
Athena Wright disagrees.
“I know they are watching, that’s the reason why that sheriff just drove by,” said Wright. “That’s their way of figuring out who’s who, who’s doing what, they know where we are at all times.”
It’s more of a shaming tool in Watts’ mind.
He said he’ll keep the camera focus on the street camp day and night so, “people can see the prostitutes and the dealing that goes on at night”.
But, he also said the camera is intended to prove a point – that people in Everett are “too tolerant.”
“It’s a problem because too many churches are providing too much food and too many meals and too many clothes and too much support,” said Watts. “And the good citizens of Everett, (they’re) providing a wonderful environment for the tweakers to migrate and to enjoy, it’s a benefits issue.”
Chief Templeton didn’t know of Watt’s camera and said Everett, like all cities, is struggling to find the proper way to handle the opioid crisis and homeless.
While he didn’t endorse Watts’ camera, he did say giving items directly to the homeless on the street doesn’t help.
“By people donating items to people that maybe homeless, that are living or residing out in the area, is not a constructive way to donate,” said Templeton.
But Matthew Parker, another Smith Ave. homeless camper, said there’s an irony with the camera. He believes it’s a positive to showcase the plight of the homeless and what they deal with on a daily basis.
“Not all of us are necessarily bad people,” said Parker, who’s been on the street for more than four years. “It will show that life out here is not easy and we would be happy for some help.”
The “Tweakerville” camera is currently streaming on Facebook. Watts said the Tweekerville USA channel will be up and running by mid-August.