Bend police add summer patrols downtown

Businesses say transients, panhandling a growing problem

Bend police walk a downtown beat

BEND, Ore. - Among the businesses, shoppers and strollers, a new presence joins downtown Bend -- police officers on foot patrol.

The new patrol follows months of meetings between Bend police, the city and the Downtown Bend Businesses Association.

Two police officers will share the new patrolling duties that started a couple weeks ago.

"(We were) kind of at a point where we're very concerned for what's going to happen for the summer because of the escalation of behaviors and issues we'd had downtown," Downtown Bend Business Association Executive Director Chuck Arnold said Friday.

Businesses downtown told NewsChannel 21 they've noticed an increase in transients and the homeless downtown.

"It did get a little out of control for a while," said Local Joe owner A.J. Cohen.

Arnold said recently, vandalism and aggressive panhandling have caused problems.

"It's (the new patrol) about everybody having the liberty and the ability to enjoy downtown and not have concerns about being accosted or approached," Arnold said.

Cohen said, "It's very challenging for business, because I know a lot of our customers don't feel that comfortable."

But transients say they also want to feel welcome downtown.

Dillon Lindsey has been in Bend for only about a week. He has traveled and camped across the U.S. for more than a year and depends on urban sidewalks to play music and make a living.

"There are people who lump us all into one group and say, 'These people are freeloaders,' because they see someone with a backpack, someone who clearly doesn't have a house," Lindsey said.

Some travelers admit aggressive transients can paint a bad name for the entire group, but say they enjoyed their lifestyle and don't want to be isolated for being different.

"I was fed with a silver spoon growing up," said another traveling man.  "And this, to me, is paradise, is true freedom -- being on the road."

Police said an officer will patrol each day this summer, hoping to deter crime and put people at ease.

Arnold said downtown Bend had a patrol officer a few years ago, but the position was eliminated years ago due to police department budget cuts.

NewsChannel 21 also spoke with a group of homeless in Bend who've been living in the city for years. They said they've noticed an increase in transients in the last couple years and say Bend has become a new destination for travelers.

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