Browne’s Addition residents seeing increase in crime, trash

SPOKANE, Wash. – Browne’s Addition is normally a beautiful and historic Spokane neighborhood. However, some of the people who live there say it’s becoming more crime ridden and dirty.

The neighborhood council is stepping up to try and clean it up, but it hasn’t been easy.

Neighborhood council chair Rick Biggerstaff believes the increase in crime, trash and illegal campers has to do with how food is given out in the neighborhood to people in need.

Volunteers spend five days a week for an hour each cleaning up Coeur d’Alene Park.

“All the people who are volunteering are doing it because we love the place, and we want it to keep looking good,” said Peyton Smith, a volunteer and resident.

In the last two months, volunteers have picked up 400 bags of trash. The neighborhood watch group has been keeping track.

Smith said they’d find many things including cardboard, eating utensils, toilet paper, needs and more.

Biggerstaff believes all the food distribution in the neighborhood is linked to a rise in people without a home coming to the park to get food. He said they normally have two establishments give food out regularly. Then, there would be other groups who would come in randomly to donate food and clothes.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase of that over time. Aside from Browne’s watch, our neighborhood council is now asking the question – In what way is the food service adding to our, or helping, or what impact is that having on our safety we’re seeing in our neighborhood?,” Biggerstaff questioned.

Data from Spokane Police show the southwest district, which includes Browne’s Addition, has had about 40 more thefts from January to July 2020, compared to the same time last year. There have also been more than 30 car thefts that area.

Biggerstaff says they’ve asked the police department to step up patrol around the area, and they have.

“Homeless people are part of our population, they are with us, they are a part of who we are,” Biggerstaff said. “We like to talk with them, we like to be with them. But, it gets harder and harder to do so because sometimes it’s difficult to say what the safety situation is and that’s unfortunate.”

He said it’s not his intention to make people leave their neighborhood. Instead, Biggerstaff wants to find a better way to help them. The goal? To better the coordination of people trying to help, while simultaneously keeping a clean area where crime is down.

“It’s hard when you have a population that’s so mobile, it’s hard to keep communicating with each other around safety,” Biggerstaff said. “That’s the nature of the neighborhood. In some ways it’s doubly hard for a neighborhood like this too, provide services, yet stay safe. Those are things we want to learn more about.”