The Coeur d’Alene Police Department wants to open a substation on East Sherman Avenue as part of a community policing effort in the downtown neighborhood known for its visible homeless population and high number of calls for police assistance.
Last year, police responded to 429 incidents in the neighborhood east of Eighth Street that borders Sherman Avenue and includes Sanders Beach. Drug violations, simple assault and vandalism were three of the most common offenses, said Sgt. Christie Wood, the department’s spokeswoman.
Taking a cue from Spokane, Coeur d’Alene police are thinking strategically about where a more visible presence through a substation could deter crimes of opportunity, she said.
“East Sherman is the logical place,” said Wood, noting the area’s high traffic volumes and concentration of residential motels, bars and restaurants, and charitable organizations that serve the city’s homeless residents.
St. Vincent de Paul has offered the department rent-free office space at its Star Haven Transitional Housing complex at 1516 E. Sherman Ave. However, the police department would need to spend about $30,000 to remodel the office and install fiber-optic cable.
City Council members discussed the substation this week at a 2015 budget strategy session, where it emerged as a council priority, said Keith Erickson, the city’s spokesman. However, next year’s budget is still a work in progress. The city’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
About one-third of the calls on a new hotline established by Mayor Steve Widmyer have been about problems in the East Sherman neighborhood, according to Erickson. Two merchants said their clients have been hassled by belligerent transients. Neighbors have also complained about public urination, foul language, panhandling and people looking into windows.
“The mayor is getting an earful,” Erickson said.
Ken Cromer, 53, said he’d welcome the increased police presence. The disabled sawmill worker moved into Star Haven Transitional Housing about 15 months ago. He likes the East Sherman neighborhood, but “there’s always something going on,” Cromer said.
He’s deterred a would-be thief from stealing his bike and often hears about crimes in the area. If the police were his neighbors, “I’d probably be able to leave my car unlocked,” Cromer said.
If the substation is established, the Police Department would staff it during certain shifts. Most of the criminal activity in the neighborhood occurs around midnight, Wood said.
An analysis of the police log for the area also shows a spike in crime rates during the early evening.
The substation would be similar to one that the department staffs in Coeur d’Alene’s City Park during the summer, Wood said.
In a separate matter, the City Council is considering putting a public safety bond before Coeur d’Alene voters in May 2015. The bond would pay for capital needs in the city’s police and fire departments, including new police patrol cars, three fire engines, a ladder truck and a storage building near Fire Station 2.
The bond would replace a $7 million public safety bond approved by voters in 2005, which will be paid off next year. The amount paid for an owner-occupied dwelling valued at $150,000 has been about $20 per year.
City officials haven’t determined the amount of the proposed bond, but it will be less than the previous public safety bond, city Finance Director Troy Tymeson said.