Merchants, police discuss problems with disorderly youth |

Merchants, police discuss problems with disorderly youth

After working on the issue for more than a year, Grass Valley police, downtown merchants and others are seeing improvements in a recurring problem with disorderly youth.

The ongoing problems in the city’s historic core led to a meeting almost two years ago that included police, downtown businesses and other stakeholders.

A group of about 15 got back together Thursday at the Police Department, generally agreeing the issue has gotten better, and the problem demographic has shifted more toward young adults.

“Downtown is our crown jewel where people want to shop and feel safe,” said Chief John Foster.

“When we first met we had large groups blocking sidewalks, intimidating people smoking and shoplifting was rampant,” said Officer Zack Laferriere. “Now it’s down to a few skateboarding on the sidewalk; look how far we’ve come.”

Along with skateboarding, people sitting on the sidewalk and in E. Daniels Park are still problems, said Downtown Association Executive Director Howard Levine.

So far, police have worked to address the issues with additional patrol, and better signs and ordinances to prevent loitering and trespassing, Foster said.

“We initiated direct patrol, assigning officers to be more active in downtown,” Foster said. “We haven’t really had much of an increase in crime downtown, but we’ve had an increase in activity.”

And NEO, the youth sector of the Coalition for a Drug Free Nevada County, has starting sponsoring activities to give young people other options, said youth coordinator Halli Ellis.

However, John Johnson of the JordanWood store asked what merchants can do when police aren’t there.

“The problem is enforcement. I don’t know what to do. I talk to them occasionally and some are respectful, but some are very disrespectful,” Johnson said. “They block the sidewalks and block the entrances to stores.”

By educating all merchants downtown and getting them to step up, Laferriere said they can make a difference.

“Our approach is to empower you in the downtown area,” Laferriere said. “The mayor had mentioned some businesses are losing revenue because of the negative impacts.”

If one merchant talks to a skateboarder on the sidewalk, but another down the street ignores them, that won’t help the problem, he added.

By eating lunch or having coffee in E. Daniels Park, Council Member Yolanda Cookson said people could potentially displace people causing problems.

And the district attorney’s office is working with police to prosecute crimes in the downtown area they may not have time to go after elsewhere, said Deputy District Attorney Oliver Pong.

Law enforcement and school officials agreed that the people causing a problem downtown represented a small minority, difficult to reach with positive influences.

“This is probably one tenth of one 1 percent of the kids in this county,” said Capt. Dave Remillard.

To contact Staff Writer Greyson Howard, e-mail or call (530) 477-4237.

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