Bend councilors address downtown safety concerns

Variety of moves in the works

Council address downtown safety issues

BEND, Ore. -  A plan will soon be set in motion to address concerns that people have not felt safe downtown and even feel threatened. Several people, including business owners, brought their concerns to the city council a couple weeks ago. 

"The city council took a real interest in that we have been spending the last two weeks working on finding solutions to help meet the need," Mayor Casey Roats said Wednesday. "We want to make sure that when people are downtown, they feel safe and don't feel threatened."

City councilors have discussed safety measures with the police chief and the district attorney. Some options include increasing police presence, placing cameras in specific locations, cleaning up litter, and making sure offenders know there will be consequences for their actions.

"We are going to use our exclusion zone and if people are consistently breaking the law, they are going to be excluded from downtown," Roats said. 

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said some good ideas are on the table, such as making sure the police department is fully staffed and making more use of private security guards.

"Let's look at having a giving campaign," Hummel said. "Rather than giving to someone who is panhandling directly, maybe you can give to a service organization that can give services to that person."

Hummel also said it's important to remember theat officials need to balance someone's right to free speech with the community's right to feel safe.

"Merely shouting and screaming and being disruptive, which might be troubling to people, does not equal a crime," Hummel said. "It's when an action is taken, an action to threaten someone is taken -- and it is often a fine line."

Roats said they want downtown Bend to be attractive for the right reasons and not for people who feel like they can come and get free food and money. 

"A lot of these folks that are creating these problems, they are not really moving to Bend for work or jobs or education," Roats said. "They're just kind of here."

Long term, the council will discuss programs to help people with mental health or alcohol or drug issues, such a respite center now in the works.. 

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