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More Patrols Decreased Calls To Peoples Park, But Increased Calls Elsewhere

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

City of Bloomington officials say an increased law enforcement presence in Peoples Park last summer resulted in a decrease in calls to the area, but say disruptive activity increased in other areas of the city.

Last summer, increased police patrols downtown, including in Peoples Park, sparked controversy. People struggling with homelessness who used to spend time in Peoples Park migrated to new locations.

Data published on the city’s website shows a 34 percent decrease in calls for service to the Peoples Park area from 2016 to 2017. At the same time, there was an 18 percent increase in reported incidents in Seminary Square Park.

The poverty and homeless support organization Shalom Center is near Seminary Square. Executive Director Forrest Gilmore says the shift of the challenges from one area to another is not surprising.

“Honestly, I was surprised at how quickly people moved out of that park,” Gilmore says. “It was fast, and it was over night, so it did shift the homeless population a bit in terms of where they spend time.”

Gilmore says increased police presence is a way to respond to citizen complaints, but not a way to solve ongoing problems those in extreme poverty face.

Since the increased patrols in the park, Gilmore says Shalom Center has not seen a change in the number of people using its services.

He says most people were not surprised by the crackdown in People’s Park.

“They have become used to engaging with the criminal justice system, because it is a regular part, sadly, of the way we deal with poverty,” he says.

Gilmore says he thinks there are probably fewer people living in poverty spending their time outdoors or in public places this summer.

“I think they’re spending more time indoors,” he says. “They’re spending more time at the shelters.”

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