A homeless person was found dead at the north end of town Friday afternoon, and police believe the person had been deceased for about a week when a California Highway Patrol officer found the body next to a drainage canal just east of the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

California Highway Patrol Officer Joe Whitlock said he and other officers had joined Caltrans in a cleanup effort in the area, which is dotted by several campsites just north of Interstate 205, between the eastern end of Larch Road and MacArthur Drive.

Whitlock said he was walking north along the drainage canal when he saw the body.

“I decided to walk down it and came across the end of the path, where there appeared to be a bicycle and a shaded area, and there was someone laying there,” Whitlock said.

He noted that the CHP went along with Caltrans for the daylong cleanup as a security measure because there were so many homeless camps in the area — at least six that the CHP knew of.

“Each of those trees has tents under it,” he said, gesturing toward a row of trees along the north side of the freeway.

The body was found a few hundred yards north of Interstate 205 in an area near a freeway overpass that crosses the drainage canal and railroad tracks that lead toward the old Holly Sugar plant.

The CHP notified Tracy Police Department, which handled the investigation. The San Joaquin County coroner will try to find out who the person was, the cause of death and how long the person had been there. As of Wednesday, the sheriff’s department had identified the person only as “John Doe.”

Tracy Police Sgt. Scott Muir noted that nearly all the people who had been camped in the area cleared out when the CHP arrived, and by the time the officers found the body, there was no one around who could help identify the person. The police sealed off access to the area until an evidence technician could examine the scene.

“We’re going to treat is as suspicious circumstances until we find out anything different,” Muir said.

Anyone who can help identify the person should call Tracy Police Department at 831-4550.

Contact Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com or 830-4227.

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