Complaints lead Fargo to bolster police presence downtown

Complaints from residents and businesses in downtown Fargo over vagrants, addicts and other public safety concerns have surged in recent years. As American Experiment noted, the backlash over the growing chaos downtown reached a new low last fall.

It’s not exactly a pleasant subject to write about, much less personally encounter while shopping, sightseeing or on a lunch break downtown. But workers and visitors to city center Fargo need to watch their step like never before.

North Dakota’s largest city has suddenly become a biohazard risk during warmer months, when more homeless people and visitors congregate downtown. This year authorities and businesses logged hundreds of cases of used needles, human excrement and other examples of anti-social behavior.

The message has gotten through loud and clear to city officials. This summer the Fargo Police Department has doubled the number of cops on the beat downtown from four to eight officers in response to the public’s concerns.

“Just really being visible and providing that sense of safety and security for the public that are coming down to visit,” Fargo Police Capt. Chris Helmick said at a recent Downtown Download public meeting.

The Cass County Sheriff and North Dakota Highway Patrol will support the increased police patrols. A point of emphasis will be on weekends, particularly late evenings after last call. down.

“Our weekend, evening presence again that’s another area where we’ve had a lot of requests from the public about to have officers more present during the bar closing time,” Helmick added. “So we’re really making some efforts this summer to boost our presence.”

The downtown resource officers will be able utilize the police substation already located in the area, according to Forum News.

Although no police officers are permanently stationed there, officers are allowed to complete reports, store equipment, take breaks or use the restrooms and also better interact with the community from the downtown substation.

Katie Ettish, spokeswoman for the Fargo Police Department, said the substation has allowed officers to maintain a presence in the downtown area. “Since the opening of this location, we have seen our Community Engagement Team utilize this resource often,” she said.

The heightened enforcement effort includes partnering with public health officials and nonprofits to provide shelter and other resources to addicts and the homeless congregating downtown.

Additionally, Helmick said that a downtown noise and vibration study will be starting soon , noting that the study won’t specifically target street performers, but will be trying to find the balance between those that live downtown and want a quiet life and those that come to visit.

“This isn’t just about street performers, we’re not trying to limit them from the downtown area,” Helmick said. “We have a rapidly changing community in the downtown area. There is a lot of interest, and on top of that we’re trying to have a vibrant downtown.”

In addition, Fargo police are working closely with Fargo Cass Public Health and the Downtown Engagement Center to offer assistance to those who are experiencing homelessness, addictions or mental health issues, Helmick said.

It’s a tall order, but city hall has moved in the right direction to restore civility downtown in response to the public outcry.