Downtown police patrols working, traders say – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Business owners have urged Medford City Council to continue with a pilot project that placed an officer on city center streets

Alba Park in downtown Medford.

Business owners pleaded with Medford City Council on Thursday to pursue a police patrol pilot project that has made the town center safer.

“The impact has been tremendous for all of our downtown businesses and merchants,” said Annie Jenkins, acting director of the Downtown Medford Association. “I feel safer walking.”

Jenkins said she had experienced abusive behavior in the past.

“I’ve been spat on or spat on near,” she said.

His association conducted a survey of merchants, 83% of whom said they noticed an improvement in the downtown core during the pilot project.

Earlier this year, council approved the expenditure of $33,320.16 for a dedicated officer to patrol downtown for 36 hours a week from May 2 to July 2.

The pilot project expanded the reach of the existing police habitability team, which cleared homeless camps off Bear Creek Greenway.

The officer was primarily walking downtown from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., which Medford police cite as the time when the most calls for service occur.

The city has applied for another COPS grant that could restore the expanded police presence downtown, but it will be until September before the city knows if it will receive the grant.

Over the years, downtown merchants have faced harassment, public urination, and other bad behavior.

“I’ve been through some really uncomfortable things,” said Catrina Munoz, owner of a Main Street bridal shop.

Once, while Munoz was meeting with a client and her mother, a man outside her window pulled down his pants and urinated on the window.

“Later he came back and masturbated in front of the window,” Munoz said. “In May, the habitability team came and I was able to work.”

Greg Lemhouse, who works with Ayala Properties and KDA Homes, told council the pilot project must continue if the city hopes to continue downtown development.

“You won’t get investments and you won’t attract people here if they don’t feel safe,” he said.

DJ Graham, deputy chief of operations for the Medford Police Department, presented a report to the council outlining the performance of the pilot project.

Police issued 106 criminal charges, issued 36 arrest warrants, issued 44 citations, issued 48 downtown exclusion orders and issued 164 warnings.

He said police handled more calls downtown than normal, in part because businesses were aware of the scheme.

“I think before this project they felt marginalized,” he said.

The Downtown Medford Association worked with the police to publicize the program.

“We really promoted how to make a phone call also to the police department,” said Jenkins, of the Downtown Medford Association. “DJ did a really good job (explaining) how it’s an emergency and it’s not an emergency.”

Councilor Tim D’Alessandro said it was good to hear businesses notice the impact of the pilot project.

“The reality is that perception is part of this whole problem,” he said. “The perception is that they feel safer.”

Contact freelance writer Damian Mann at [email protected]

David H. Henry