City of Bloomington releases plan to improve downtown safety

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- After months of meetings and community input, the City of Bloomington has released a plan to address downtown safety. The plan comes after dozens of complaints of aggressive panhandlers and reports of human waste and syringes being found in a park.

Bloomington police have recently increased patrols downtown and say they have had fewer complaints and calls for service, but others say the problems are now just moving elsewhere.

“Our position is deterrence by presence,” said Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Joe Qualters.

Police say their increased presence is keeping drugs, fights and human waste out of People’s Park.

“Those that have left any of the parks where we have had a presence are doing so on their own,” said Qualters.

Police presence is just one part of a new citywide initiative to address safety and civility issues like panhandling, aggressive behavior and illegal drug use downtown. The City has received complaints about “inebriated students, human waste and syringes being found on various properties.” The City says many of those issues stem from poverty, homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness.

“Poverty is not a problem that Bloomington is going to solve in a year or two. Homelessness is an issue that we are taking serious steps to resolve,” said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton.

The initiative to make downtown safer and cleaner comes after months of meetings with the City’s task force.

“There are a lot of different types of problems, aggressive panhandling is one of them. There was also an issue of safety with people using the park, people getting robbed, or fights breaking out,” said Beverly Calender-Anderson of the City’s community and family resource department.

Even with the increased police patrols, folks say they have noticed the problems move to different spots.

“If people move, then we will monitor where those calls for service are coming in from and we can then adjust our personnel accordingly,” said Qualters.

The City is also working on adding ordinances to address the aggressive behaviors downtown and those could bring about fines.

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