Police Limited in how to Respond to Vagrancy and Shoplifting
Following the powerful video report from KOMO Television 'Seattle is Dying’, many are saying the same problems of homelessness, mental illness, drug and crime are occurring in Missoula.
KGVO News spoke with Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh who said he has been fielding questions from the media on this subject for over a week.
“I can tell you that this is not just a police issue, it’s a community wide issue and a societal issue,” said Welsh. “It’s one that many departments in the city of Missoula are taking up and trying to bring to bear to provide what resources they can.”
Welsh said city officials are not idle in attempting to address the issues near the Poverello Center and downtown Missoula.
“There are frequent meetings between representatives of the West Side neighborhood as well as the Mayor’s office and our Crime Prevention Officer,” he said. “We have extra patrols going through the area around the corridor, both marked and unmarked. We have bicycle officers that pay a lot of attention to the area and we also have the Downtown Business Improvement District that works with issues that go down the West Broadway corridor.”
Welsh said some steps are being taken to reduce crime and vagrancy in the area.
“We’re looking at changing the environment to try to mitigate some of the activity down there,” he said. “I’m talking about increased lighting and doing cleanup to some extent, and how we can interact with the business community down there to try to deal with some of these issues, but a lot of it centers around addiction and mental illness. There has to be another way other than law enforcement taking arrest action otherwise these are going to continue. These are just some of the issues we’re dealing with.”