SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department said its working to make sure large groups of street kids don't take up residency in downtown Spokane this summer.
The department has been using the colder months to cull the herd of young people who loiter on sidewalks and outside businesses. Capt. Judi Carl, the officer in charge of the downtown precinct, is taking a no-nonsense approach to making sure downtown is a pleasant place for everyone.
It wasn't that long ago that scenes of street kids sucker punching a man in front of the Satellite Diner or sacking a sports apparel store was a frequent sight downtown.
The incidents served as wakeup calls that downtown Spokane was starting to slip out of control.
The city council reacted by passing a new city budget that included more officers; new ordinances were passed that should clear sidewalks for pedestrians instead of squatters.
Now, as the temperatures climb, so will the number of officers you see on the streets.
"The things that people are concerned about downtown are the things we want to address," Carl said. "The loitering, we want to address the panhandling, we want to address the people sleeping on the sidewalks, we want to essentially address bad behavior."
As the warmer weather returns, visitors to the downtown area are going to notice the increased police presence including bike and foot patrols and even more reserve officers.
Violent crime is already down 13.9 percent from this time last year and now the department is targeting the activities that make downtown's guests uncomfortable.
"We want people to understand there is a code of conduct downtown. When you are in the downtown area, this is everyone's neighborhood. Everybody has a right to be there but you have to accept certain standards of behavior in order to remain downtown," Carl said.
By Bloomsday, businesses will kick off a campaign that discourages people from offering handouts to panhandlers. Police say those generous donations to individuals on the corner makes things worse for the entire downtown area.
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