Safety Improvements Slated for Downtown Bend Area

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOriginally published in the Bend Chamber Business Edition – August 25, 2017

At the last council meeting, several downtown Bend business owners expressed frustration when it comes to the safety of the business core area. Due to an influx of transients and homeless people, the area has become less safe for visitors and business owners alike.

In the following weeks since the last council meeting, the city of Bend has brought together members from the Downtown Bend Business Association (DBBA), Bend Police, and the District Attorney’s office to work on a Downtown Public Safety Improvement Plan.

City Manager Eric King presented the plan to the city councilors, noting goals are broken into short-, medium-, and long-term action items. The short-term category includes guiding the DBBA when it comes to what the city can and cannot do to solve the issues at hand based on current local, state, and federal laws.

King noted the city is currently working with Cascade Disposal to redesign the garbage enclosures to minimize vandalism. The city will also purchase a high-pressure washer to clean the affected areas.

Another frustration from the business community is the use of parking areas around Drake Park for overnight parking. In order to solve issues with people camping in the park area, the city will post “No Overnight Parking” signs.

Among the medium-term goals, King mentioned redesigning the Drake Park parking area to negate what Councilor Boddie called “the loop,” which enables drug buyers to cruise through the parking area to quickly finish a drug sale.

The city is also proposing to install security cameras in the parking garage, remove doors in transit areas, and add windows to doors in other areas to increase safe movement. Other proposed solutions are to redesign areas to hinder people from sleeping in the parking structure.

Police Chief Porter noted the police force will be fully staffed by February 2018 to be ready for next summer. In the mean-time, the police have increased the number of patrol officers in the downtown area to add “feet on the ground.” There is also a discussion to create a “respite area” or “sobering area” to defuse situations involving alcohol or drug impaired people.

Long-term goals include an increased efficiency in the court system. The Legislator recently denied Deschutes County’s funding request for a new federal judge. King mentioned a shift to municipal court may be a better solution. Chief Porter referenced the Eugene model for innovative procedures in municipal court.

The majority of the Council supported the plan as presented by the City Manager.