City officials discuss possible solutions
Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart is offering $10,000 from a City Council reserve fund for police overtime to help squash an uptick in crime downtown.
“After meeting with the business owners about their employees’ cars being broken into and a chef getting attacked, how can you not take action?” Stuckart said.
Mike Tedesco, Downtown Spokane Partnership president, said he’s spoken to all the downtown business owners and their stories have been similar: Kids congregating, especially near the Ridpath, “tend to intimidate our customers and our employees.”
Vehicle prowling in the downtown area was up 400 percent during the first four months of this year, according to Spokane police. There have been two serious assaults in recent weeks.
“The good news is everybody – the police, the City Council and the mayor’s office – are in tune with what’s going on and they’re tackling it,” Tedesco said. “There’s about to be some positive results that people will see and feel on the streets.”
Nighttime bike patrols have already been added on Friday and Saturday nights, which is typical during the summer months, police officials said. Additionally, the department will “redirect patrol to be specifically looking for issues in the downtown area,” Major Frank Scalise said.
The Downtown Spokane Partnership has contributed $50,000 to help pay for extra bike patrols on Friday and Saturday nights for several years.
“There’s also going to be an increased police presence in the downtown area prior to Hoopfest, and during,” Scalise said.
No one has an exact profile of the groups causing problems, but some have said it’s as many as 40 or 50 kids, primarily in the blocks between Howard and Washington streets and Riverside and Sprague avenues.
Interim Spokane police Chief Scott Stephens said the department is still “taking a look at it to see what the scope of the problem is.” Once that’s done, an “action plan” will be developed, he said.
Stuckart also plans to propose implementing a curfew or parental responsibility law to prevent the kids from just hanging out.
“That would basically give police a tool” to get the kids off the streets, he said.
Said Tedesco, “Everybody is well aware of the challenges; we are mobilized to address the issues.”