By Bob Allen
Traverse City is cracking down on what one official called “drunken bums”.
The popular beach town sees an influx of street people every summer. And some city officials say problems with public drunkenness are getting worse.
This week the City Commission voted to ban beer and wine in a tiny park that’s basically a walkway between downtown businesses. Store owners and shoppers have complained about those described as homeless who hang out and accost people.
“Some of the panhandling was pretty aggressive. There’s been incidents of public urination,” says city manager Ben Bifoss.
Churches and other civic groups offer meals, showers and shelter to a homeless population pegged at roughly 700. That draws homeless people to town.
Captain Brian Heffner says police never come in contact with the vast majority of them.
Small Percentage Cause Problems
Heffner says it’s maybe 1% of the homeless that’s causing problems in the walkway.
“We aren’t interested in arresting these individuals or citing them. We just simply want them to be aware and our officers to have the authority to move them along if they’re in there,” Heffner says.
The alcohol ban probably will shift the problems somewhere else. Police and city officials will try to figure out a way to deal more effectively with the bigger issue.
The city’s mayor cautioned them to move cautiously and not to close down the whole town. Traverse City hosts a number of festivals on parkland that allow public drinking.