SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department said it is aware of increasing violence in the downtown core that has been reported recently and is stepping up bike patrols for the summer in response.
The department is responding to reports by downtown business owners of escalating violence at the hands teens, who roam the streets of Spokane, a story which began when Dave Reynolds contacted KXLY.
Reynolds, a bouncer at Jimmy'Z, says he was jumped by 20 teens two weeks ago as he walked away from work. He was hospitalized with a broken cheek bone, eye socket and nose. He says the group of teens that hang out near Howard and Sprague have become more and more brazen over the last six months.
Other businesses confirmed Reynolds claims that the teens are causing serious issues downtown. The Satellite Diner says two of their cooks were beat up, too. One of them was hospitalized with a fractured skull. The owners say the outlaw teens are killing their business and making them feel unsafe.Downtown Police bike patrol
The Spokane Police Department let KXLY follow four of their bike patrol officers Thursday afternoon, to show what they do and who they encounter on a given day. Officers say they are aware of the escalating violence, even before media reports shown a light on the issue, and hope to show that they are trying to show that they do all they can to keep the streets safe.
Through Downtown Spokane Partnership funds, SPD is able to allocate extra officers to the downtown core during summertime, when more people are out on the streets. There are four officers riding around on bikes during the day on weekdays and four additional officers patrolling on Friday and Saturday nights until 3 a.m. - when most of the violence occurs.
"We're always down here and we're always watching," Senior Police Officer Doug Strosahl said.
He is one of four daytime officers who ride their bikes through the downtown streets to keep the peace. During the first 20 minutes of their patrol Thursday they made contact with teens. These teens were not being violent, but they were riding their skateboards on the sidewalk, which the city has an ordinance against.
The teens were "lippy" according to one of the officers, but eventually minded the police and moved on.
"We deal a lot with alcohol violations and pedestrian violations," Strosahl said.
Strosahl says they don't encounter the violent teens often and that much of that behavior happens during the night shift. Wednesday night, a group of teens gathered near Howard and Sprague to "protest" recent news reports about their behavior. They held signs that read: "We're People, Not Punks".
A few of the teens were handcuffed and detained, but not arrested. The six officers who responded also confiscated batons, tasers and pepper spray. Tools, one teen says, they keep to protect themselves.
"We want peace, that's what we want," 19-year-old Tyas Kelly said. "Why do you think we're holding those signs that say 'we're not punks, we're human beings', we're defending ourselves, we have an equal right to live and have our freedoms as well as everyone else does."
Kelly says he and his friends have been targeted by a local motorcycle club – a claim that the club and police say is unfounded.
"This is all we have, all our shelters are down here, a lot of people want to complain about us being down here, move the shelters then," Kelly said.
With all sides pointing fingers, Officer Strosahl just hopes police presence will help alleviate the violence.
"They shouldn't be scared, downtown is a relatively safe place, there are certain things that comes up once in a while, but most of the time it's a very safe place to be," Strosahl said.
Many of the businesses who brought the teen violence to light mention the teen shelter Crosswalk. Thursday, Crosswalk responded by saying that on any given night in Downtown Spokane there are 250 homeless kids. They say only 10-percent of those teens are the problem and none of them come from their shelter.