2 extra cops assigned to help in avenue area since August
Two police officers have been assigned to the West Colorado Avenue corridor since August and will continue that duty at least until year's end, Gold Hill Substation Police Commander Pat Rigdon said this week.
He explained that Officers Bobby Jeffords and Tim Kippel “were pulled from their regular patrol duties. They have been assigned to work varying hours and concentrate on 'disorder' crimes. They write a lot of drinking-in-public tickets, deal with trespassing issues, etc.”
Rigdon defined “the avenue” in this case as, “for the most part,” 21st Street west to the city limits, with north and south corridor boundaries of Bijou Street and Highway 24.
The beefed-up coverage is not seen as temporary. Next year, “it may be different officers assigned on a rotating basis. I think we have to have those discussions still. However, we are committed to having more of a presence in 2013.”
Having the officers does not mean the PD's HOT team, which focuses on homeless issues and illegal campers, is no longer working the Westside at times. The three-man team is “over there quite a bit too, in conjunction with the [County] Sheriff's Office,” Rigdon said. “They keep the camps under control.”
A question for City Council has been the readiness of police if a no-panhandling law passes for the downtown only. Although “the big issue will be displacement” (of some criminal elements from the downtown), having the two officers assigned to the Westside should answer any problems there, Rigdon believes. “We may have to look at a new strategy, but we're definitely committed to having those resources available,” he said.
The two officers being assigned followed meetings over previous months in which Westside leaders discussed with police and elected officials the problems of panhandling, theft and even felony crimes in an area that's often frequented by tourists.
What police have found is “probably a core group of five guys causing the problems,” Rigdon said. Police normally ticket them for their “disorder” crimes, which allows them to go free but gives them a court date. “When the judge has enough [of such individuals not appearing for court dates] he locks them up.”
Rigdon added the hope that jail time might inspire people to “clean up a bit,” but typically that's not the case. “One guy was out 20 minutes and he was already drunk and obnoxious and harassing somebody at a business,” he said.
Westside Pioneer article