- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - It’s been awhile since Belay Abebe started his day sweeping up broken glass.

And that’s progress.

Abebe owns Mercato Central convenience store in the Pettigrew Heights neighborhood, just west of downtown Sioux Falls. For years, it was routine to arrive in the morning and find that someone had kicked in the glass of his shop’s front door.

Today, Abebe and other business owners in the neighborhood say they’re dealing with fewer of these nuisance crimes, and they credit a new proactive policing approach, which started about a year ago.

That’s when police and property owners began working together to install “no trespassing” signs that give officers the authority to intervene on private property with or without a call to police, the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1c6UOo5 ) reported.

“It’s not like before. It changed completely,” Abebe said.

The alley behind Munchies convenience store used to be filled with unruly patrons. Employees would shoo them away, but they would leave and come back.

These days, it’s empty.

“We have zero tolerance for that in that area,” said Officer Ryan Baker. “Those crowds lead to fights, and the fights could lead to anything else.”

Which makes Cindy Anderson’s job much easier.

Anderson used to have to chase loiterers away from Munchies several times an hour, but not anymore.

“It’s kind of shocking.” she said of the improvement.

During the first four months of 2014, officers were making at least two arrests in the area each week, ranging from firearm violations to robbery and aggravated assault.

So far in 2015, the number of arrests has been cut in half and most of them have been for non-violent nuisance crimes.

The police officers patrolling the area try to do a foot patrol at least twice a shift, in which they stop into businesses.

On a recent patrol, Baker and Officer Joey Larson heard from a business employee about a man carrying a handgun who was harassing him and his customers. Baker and Larson told the employee to contact them if the man comes near the business again.

“Call us,” Baker said. “We’ll I.D. him and tell him he’s not welcomed here.”

Business owners said that while progress is being made, problems still exist.

“Some customers still don’t come, especially during the night,” said Josefina Marquez, who owns La Tapatia Mexican Grocery Store and Restaurant.

But the approach has been successful enough that Sioux Falls police are considering exporting the strategy to other parts of town.

In the Whittier neighborhood, where calls have increased since the opening of the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, Baker said business owners have paid attention to the new enforcement efforts in Pettigrew Heights in hopes of duplicating the success.

___

Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com


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