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Bloomington Police Increase Downtown Presence After Complaints

Bloomington Police officers speak to residents in Peoples Park in summer, 2017 (WFIU/WTIU News file photo)

Officials are increasing police patrols in downtown Bloomington following complaints about criminal activity, aggressive panhandling and drug abuse by the city’s homeless population.

Twenty officers started their afternoon shifts with a roll call last week at Peoples Park, about a block from the Indiana University campus. A police lieutenant told the officers to have “zero tolerance” for alcohol, drugs and fighting in the park.

Police Chief Mike Diekhoff tells The Herald-Times that the department has a responsibility to keep the area safe for everyone.

Döner Kebab Manager Brandon Lethig says the police presence has helped his business and other businesses as well.

“We’re used to seeing a lot of people doing a lot of bad things here,” Lethig says. “A lot of drugs, a lot of fighting, a lot of solicitation on my customers, so their presence here has helped us out.”

Shalom Community Center Executive Director Forrest Gilmore says the policing merely moves the homeless population to a different place.

“Just adding a few officers in a few locations downtown might reduce some people’s feeling of complaint in those areas, but it doesn’t do anything to solve the larger problem,” Gilmore says.

A city task force recommended additional police patrols and is preparing a report for Mayor John Hamilton.

Some city parking enforcement officers also are looking for suspicious behavior, and the city has hired four IU police officers to boost downtown patrols.

Angelo Bautista contributed to this report.

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