A homeless encampment in Costa Mesa adorned with animal rights posters and graffiti could have been shelter to suspects connected to a recent rash of burglaries, police said Thursday.
Costa Mesa police discovered the elaborate encampment beneath a San Diego (405) Freeway underpass where the Santa Ana River meets Moon Park, 3377 California St.
Officers believe six to eight men have been living in the encampment for about two years, said Sgt. Vic Bakkila.
The camp was discovered after an officer saw a suspicious-looking man go under the overpass, according to Bakkila.
Authorities had increased patrols in the area because of a recent uptick in burglaries.
In the encampment, police found a cache of bikes and watches, although where the items came from and if they were stolen was not immediately known. Police were working to determine whether the items were connected to the recent burglaries.
Displayed in the encampment were posters from the nationwide activist group Animal Liberation Front, which included images of police inspecting Dorothy's basket from "The Wizard of Oz" and one with the phrase "Even vegans want to slaughter pigs."
The men, who were mostly in their 20s, kept two rats in cages and a one-eyed Rottweiler that wore a shell for a tag. The camp also had bedroom- and living room-like areas with beds and couches, and a kitchen complete with a stove, instant noodles and vegan mayo.
The riverbed below the encampment was filled with feces, urine, sex toys and garbage.
One of the men was a combat veteran eligible for services, which police offered to help connect him with.
As part of the city's plan to reduce homelessness in the area, police also offered the other men means to get to their hometowns, but they declined.
One of the suspects had a warrant out for his arrest and was taken into custody.
The group also may be connected to vandalism at the Meat House on 17th Street in Costa Mesa, although the connection is still under investigation.