Olympia police will expand hours for downtown walking patrol this summer

OlympianMay 6, 2014 

FILE - Olympia Police Officer Jeff Herbig patrols downtown as a bike/walking patrol officer July 2, 2013. (STEVE BLOOM/staff photographer)

STEVE BLOOM — The Olympian Buy Photo

The Olympia Police Department will expand its downtown walking patrol ahead of an expected summertime increase in criminal activity.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Olympia City Council voted 5-0 to allocate $40,000 toward the extra patrol. Councilmembers Jeannine Roe and Nathaniel Jones were absent from Tuesday's meeting.

The council also approved $10,000 to fund more private security this summer at three heavily used public areas: Artesian Commons, Percival Landing and The Olympia Center. The parks department has proposed a contract with Pacific Coast/Pierce County Security.

The police department already devotes two officers to patrol downtown Olympia on foot, seven days a week during business hours, with a supervisor covering any gaps.

Starting this month, the walking patrol will also cover downtown with two officers from 5-9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through mid-October. The department receives an increase in calls for service during this time period, said Chief Ronnie Roberts, noting that the department will use officers working on overtime to staff the extra patrol.

Evenings bring a different set of challenges downtown. More fighting and disorderly behavior spills out of the bars and onto the streets as the night unfolds, Roberts said.

"The goal here is that we educate and modify behavior through presence and conversation, rather than enforcement," Roberts told the council. "There is a need for us to be down there and we can have an impact."

The Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA) lobbied for the extra police emphasis after feedback from downtown bar owners earlier this year. PBIA board member Jeffrey Trinin said the extra patrol would be welcome year-round if funding were available.

"The walking patrol is important to setting a tone downtown so that everyone feels comfortable here," Trinin told The Olympian. "It will make a big difference in the summertime."

The downtown walking patrol was restored in 2013, following voter approval of a sales tax increase for public safety. A second officer was added to the patrol in January. Roberts told the council that the walking patrol has led to an increase in arrests, and has allowed officers to build relationships with business owners.

"This is really about reclaiming public space for all of our community members to use," Councilmember Julie Hankins said Tuesday.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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