JOYCE – Mike and Nellie Hazlet were robbed on a regular basis, almost every night, they said – scrap pieces of wood from their yard, tools out of the truck.
Their 11-year-old daughter used to jump on her trampoline high enough to see over the gully on their property line into the woods.
She saw a commune of ramshackle sheds, piles of junk and wasting-away people living with disregard for their health, and her family’s privacy.
“Crack heads,” is what the family used to call them.
The Hazlets’ unwanted neighbors turned out to be an encampment of dozens of people without obvious means of support – some drug users and manufacturers, according to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department, and others simply homeless and downtrodden.
But the Hazlets and a few dozen neighbors, with a lot of help from the Sheriff’s Department, have taken back their community.
Thursday, they watched their area’s biggest blight, the illegal encampment, torn down.
“It’s a great day, right here,” Mike said.
The estimated half-mile-long area along state Highway 112 between Bishop Road and Dempsy Road about a mile east of central Joyce is a Sheriff’s Department pilot program in community oriented policing.
In the process, neighbors have grown closer and they speak with greater pride about their community than they once did.
“I love this area. I love my neighborhood,” said Janet Belford.
“My children walk down Bishop Road . . . I’m lucky they can go out and play.”
Several agencies played a part.
They included the Sheriff’s Department and the county’s departments of health, roads and community development, in conjunction with Fire District No. 4 and the state Department of Natural Resources.
They focused their attention on the neighborhood and cleaned up the area over a period of three months beginning in November.
But during the years before the pilot program started, the Hazlets were afraid to let their daughter play too far from the house.
Her parents asked to not use her name because they are still concerned for her safety.