Apr 5, 2013 9:04 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

SLO Downtown Association petitioning for more police presence downtown

The San Luis Obispo Downtown Association has circulated an online petition, and in it, they say it is time to "change the culture" in the downtown area.

The Association wants aggressive and criminal behaviors by transients to end, and they plan to present the petition to the City Council to ask for funding for more police presence downtown.

As of Friday evening, nearly 500 supporters have put their name on the online petition. It does not specify on the website if signatures have to come from residents only in San Luis Obispo or in SLO County.

Beau Barclay-Cram, the husband of the owner of Sock Drawer in downtown San Luis Obispo, said he's had enough of the transients in the area.

"They're generally unruly. Their dogs go to the bathroom on the street. They aggressively panhandle. They're noisy and just bad for business," said Barclay-Cram.

The Downtown Association found that Barclay-Cram wasn't the only person feeling that way. The Association hopes with enough signatures, the City Council will approve funding for two uniformed police officers to patrol solely the downtown area, seven days a week.

Dee Torres, the Homeless Services Director for CAP-SLO, said she is supportive of increased police activity to address negative behaviors, if need be, but she added that people must not assume that all of the aggressive and illegal behavior is coming from only transients.

She said, "I don't think that it is just centered around homeless people. I think it's criminal activity in general; could be from anyone."

The San Luis Obispo Police Department said it currently has a bike unit, consisting of three officers. Lieutenant Jeff Smith told KSBY News, the officers patrol downtown at night, Wednesdays through Sundays. Police are also considering a CAT (Community Action Team), said Smith, where the department would assign officers specifically downtown to deal with problems, but not necessarily specific to the transient issue.

But for Barclay-Cram, he feels like something just needs to be done, for the sake of his business, and downtown.

"People don't want to be downtown or come in the store, they want to avoid the area," said Barclary-Cram.

According to the city's Human Resources Department, it costs more than $133,000 to fund more than two police officers. The Downtown Association will forward it's petition to the City Council at Tuesday's meeting at 6pm.

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