Mayor Denis Law and the Renton City Council received a special safety briefing Monday night about efforts to improve public safety in the downtown area and among the city's parks.
The issue — which was not on the City Council agenda — comes at a time of increased sensitivity about public safety in the downtown core. It is one of several concerns voiced by community members who spoke against the City's likely decision to more the downtown library from its current location over the Cedar River to the Big Five building near South Third Street and Logan Avenue.
Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich said that although crime is down for the fifth consecutive year, the police department continues to deal with issues — both big and small — specifically in the downtown core and transit center. Often times the problem stems from 'unruly' young adults.
"We still have challenges," he said, noting a higher concentration to fights, minor thefts and other calls to the downtown core: Rainier Avenue to Main Avenue between South Second and South Third streets.
"Basically that long rectangle," Milosevich said.
This new plan calls for a slight shift in assignments. The department intends to assign three officers to join efforts with the current "proactive" units that are stationed out of the parking garage near the transit center.
"They'll be on foot, they'll be in cars, they'll be on bicycles," he said of the additional officers in the downtown core.
Anywhere from one to three extra officers will be in force six days per week for 10-11 hours a day, he said.
The department will also use plain-clothes officers to patrol the buses and will be available for additional patrols at events such as the car show and farmers market. Public education about "littering, jaywalking and other forms of misconduct" are also expected to ease the amount of public nuisance in the area.
Aside from the extra police power, the City plans to install more high-resolution security cameras, increase lighting and work in partnership with King County Metro and the Renton public works department to create a "well-maintained, clean environment" at the transit center.
The City has also considered a ban on the sale of fortified alcohol in the downtown area and restricting Burnett Avenue to public transit vehicles as a way to "discourage people who may be driving by to look for friend or foe," Milosevich said.
Although these new safety measures will come at a cost, he expects the City to recoup the cost through "lower than expected jail costs in the first four months of the year."
Urban safety is just one part of the City's new enforcement rollout.
Terry Higashiyama, community services administrator, outlined a plan to improve Renton parks and trails with the Ranger Program, a service she's familiar with through her past experiences with King County and Bellevue.
"We believe the Ranger Program will add one more addition and make people feel like they're more connected with what's going on," she said.
Anyone 21 years or older who is willing to volunteer at least eight hours per week is encouraged to sign up for the program.
Rangers are more than just the eyes and ears of our trail system, they're ambassadors to the parks, Higashiyama said.
Kelly Beymer of the Parks Department will oversee the Ranger Program. Call 425-430-6600 for more information.