Problems remain, but downtown patrols make impact
While problems persist, leading to several arrests in and around the US Bank Plaza last week, both city and downtown officials are calling the program a success so far.
"We think it’s been working very well," said Cassie Sollars, manager of the McMinnville Downtown Association. "We hear from merchants and business owners they find rangers to be quite effective. It's been a really useful program in keeping illegal and nuisance behaviors from going on as in past summers."
She said businesses have been able to report problems to the rangers and call in police when escalation is needed.
Capt. Matt Scales, serving as interim chief, said the program had been a success.
"Initially I think they have helped a tremendous amount," Scales said. "Some of the citizens downtown have not complied with the plaza rules, but by and large, the rangers have helped tremendously."
He said poor behavior led to several arrests last week. He cited shouted obscenities and roughhousing as the principal issues.
In addition, Scales said, several individuals were given exclusion notices for the plaza, which is privately owned.
The downtown association agreed to cover the cost of having rangers patrol downtown because merchants concerned about troublemakers hurting business. Loitering, panhandling, tagging and rowdy behavior were thought to have negative effect on an area popular with both locals and visitors.
Rangers received training through the police department. Their main tool is persuasion, but they are authorized to write citations for selected violations, including biking or boarding on the sidewalk and minor in possession of alcohol or tobacco.
The rangers are equipped with two-way radios, so can call for police backup as needed. They also patrol city parks during the summer, serving to ensure rules are followed.
The program only runs through September, but both the downtown association and the police department are looking to resume it next year for the summer tourist season.
Sollars said she couldn't speak highly enough of the service provided by the rangers and the cooperation provided by the police this summer.
"Capt. (Dennis) Marks and Capt. Scales contact us regularly to see how things are," Sollars said. "And the rangers are friendly and respectful."