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Saturday, August 8, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Council delays Mosquito ban until downtown police precinct opens

UPDATED: Mon., July 13, 2020

A Mosquito, sound-emitting ultrasonic anit-loitering deterrent is placed near the corner of Howard and Sprague in this file photo. The devices will be banned under a new city law once a new downtown police precinct opens later this year.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)
A Mosquito, sound-emitting ultrasonic anit-loitering deterrent is placed near the corner of Howard and Sprague in this file photo. The devices will be banned under a new city law once a new downtown police precinct opens later this year. (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

Before they take away one security tool of downtown businesses, the Spokane City Council will offer another.

The Spokane City Council voted Monday to override Mayor Nadine Woodward’s veto of a new law that bans the use of “Mosquito” devices – small speakers that emit a shrill, high-pitched noise meant to disperse the young and homeless from congregating or sleeping near a business.

The council overrode the veto only after its members reached a compromise to delay enforcement of the new law.

In a resolution adopted Monday night alongside the veto vote, the council called for the law to be enforced only after the new precinct at the corner of Wall Street and Riverside Avenue opens or Dec. 1, whichever comes first.

The compromise on enforcement won the support of Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson, who had voted against the law when it narrowly passed last month. Wilkerson’s support marked the fifth and final vote necessary to override Woodward’s veto.

Wilkerson owns a business in Browne’s Addition and has experienced problems similar to those seen downtown, she said Monday. They need a way to secure their buildings until the precinct is operational, she said.

Councilman Michael Cathcart and Councilwoman Karen Stratton maintained their opposition to the Mosquito law. Cathcart said he was not convinced there would be full staffing and 24/7 coverage even after the new precinct opens.

“I’m certainly open to revisiting the concept once that happens,” Cathcart said.

In her veto message earlier this month, Woodward claimed there was inadequate community input on the Mosquito ban, noting it was approved while much of the community’s attention was centered on the COVID-19 pandemic, a proposed contract with the Spokane Police Guild and recent Black Lives Matter protests.

“While well-intentioned, the ordinance eliminates a necessary tool for valued employers throughout our downtown core,” Woodward wrote.

The ordinance has long been under consideration and underwent several rewrites. It was introduced last year by Councilwoman Kate Burke, who expressed concern about the health impacts of the noise emitted by the devices and its impact on passersby, regardless of whether or not they are violating a law.

The law refers to the devices by a brand name, Mosquito, but applies to any device that emits a high-pitched noise onto a public right of way. It requires a business to first be warned by a code enforcement or police official before a citation is issued.

City Council President Breean Beggs argued Monday that the police precinct will be a “better tool” to alleviate the issues businesses have cited with people sleeping outside their doors.

The new downtown police precinct will replace the current facility in the intermodal center on First Avenue, on the eastern edge of the downtown core. With the move, several new police officers will be added to the precinct, with a planned emphasis on foot patrols and community policing efforts.

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