Citing a shortage of staffing and money, the Olympia Police Department will put its downtown nighttime walking patrol on hiatus.
The nighttime patrol was formed at the request of downtown business owners who were concerned the area was perceived as unsafe.
The night shift had supplemented the daytime walking patrol during the summer months when downtown attracts more visitors — and more disorderly conduct among bar patrons or the street community, for example.
Two officers are dedicated to each 10-hour shift, with the nighttime patrol working 5 p.m.-3 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.
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Lt. Sam Costello, who supervises the walking patrol, said the night shift will end after this week. The hiatus is expected to last at least 18 months, he said.
Two officers will remain on the daytime shift from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week. Officers will still patrol downtown Olympia during the late-night hours, but there will be no set schedule for a foot patrol at night.
“This will be one of our first priorities,” Costello said of restarting the nighttime walking patrol. “As soon as we can, we’re going to get back to it.”
Costello spoke Thursday at a board meeting of the Parking and Business Improvement Area, a self-taxing district with about 435 downtown Olympia business owners. He said the Police Department has already dipped into its overtime budget after running out of money to keep the nighttime patrol going as planned through Dec. 31.
Other factors such as employee retirements, vacations and paid leave have put a squeeze on available staffing, Costello said, adding that union contracts dictate which shift an officer can work.
PBIA board members praised the nighttime walking patrol for its efforts in building relationships and improving the overall sense of safety downtown.
“It does lead to a much calmer downtown,” said Jeffrey Trinin, who owns Always Safe & Lock. “The business owners like it, and the patrons like it. It feels quieter and safer.”
The Police Department has previously reported that it costs about $10,000 a month to keep the nighttime walking patrol on duty. The Olympia City Council had allocated money in 2015 and 2016 for the nighttime patrol.