More Olympia police officers are set to hit the downtown streets on walking patrols this week, seven months after voters passed a public safety levy to pay for community policing.
Olympia’s walking patrols started in 1985 but were cut in the recession. Two positions were added back after a sales tax increase passed in 2012. Since then patrols have mostly happened during the summer, with one officer during the day.
In the coming days that will go up to two officers plus a supervisor on duty. Nighttime walking patrols, which were cut in 2016, are expected to start up again in mid-June.
The $2.85 million a year public safety levy that passed in November will also pay for a new crisis response team, slated to be up and running by the fall.
That team would respond to people in crisis due to mental health problems, substance abuse or homelessness, said Anne Larson, OPD’s new outreach services coordinator. The team would concentrate on downtown but could respond citywide.
The city plans to hire an outside group to run the program with oversight from OPD. A request for proposals is expected to go out this month.
Business group says downtown Olympia is over capacity for homeless services.
The program is loosely based on one in Eugene, Oregon, where Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts previously worked. CAHOOTS – which stands for Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets – has been around for almost 30 years.
CAHOOTS officials were scheduled to visit Olympia on Sunday and Monday to meet with police and city staff and offer recommendations.
The levy will also pay for new neighborhood liaison officers. They are expected to be in place by early next year.