OMAK - Police Chief Jeff Koplin said he’s encouraged by recent efforts of merchants and city residents to address the problem of vagrants, drunks, drug users and others hanging around the downtown area.
Main Street Market owner Jay Jay McCoy approached the city council March 18 to complain about people hanging around the area, and drinking, using drugs, and harassing customers and passers by. He offered to organize cleanup crews to get rid of beer cans and other litter, and asked the council to do a survey on the impacts of alcohol use.
The council was scheduled to consider an ordinance on the survey at its April 1 meeting, after The Chronicle’s deadline.
Koplin said he and his officers have been working on the vagrant problem for several years and encouraging business owners to take actions to trespass troublemakers. Trespassing someone from a location is a formal process, allowing the police to take action if the person returns.
A few businesses did go through the process, but in general, “public involvement was missing” previously, he said last week.
He said a lot of what the unwanted people are doing is legal, but drinking in public or dropping trash is not.
“The public is uneasy,” he said. “It’s complicated,” as far as dealing with vagrants is concerned, but he added that it’s “important that that conversation happen.”
Since the March 18 council meeting, McCoy and others have cleaned up some of the litter, and he has made numerous social media posts - including photos and a video - about the problem.
According to Omak Police Department complaints reported through the Okanogan County dispatch center, recent calls in the downtown area have included: Welfare check West Apple Avenue and Main Street, March 21; assault, North Juniper Street near the Pioneer Park gazebo, March 21; assault, North Juniper Street, March 23; vehicle prowl, North Juniper Street, rock thrown through a windshield, March 23; request for extra patrols, people kicking a bike stand on North Main Street and hanging out behind a bar, March 23; assault on East Apple Avenue and Juniper Street, man with a golf club fighting, March 23; loitering on South Main Street, two people passed out behind the post office, March 24; suspicious activity on North Juniper Street, man knocked on a door and tried to look through a peep hole, March 24; malicious mischief on North Juniper Street, vehicle hood dented, March 26; theft on North Juniper Street, March 27; intoxicated persons in the Pioneer Park gazebo at North Juniper Street and East Apple Avenue, March 27; intoxicated people on the Central Avenue bridge; suspicious activity on Omak Avenue/East Central Avenue, March 27; suspicious activity on North Juniper Street, nude couple having sex outside, March 27; malicious mischief on North Juniper Street, graffiti found, March 28; intoxication on North Juniper Street and East Apple Avenue, March 29.