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West Palm DDA pays to add police officer to Clematis Street

Posted at 3:51 PM, Apr 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-24 06:18:11-04

An extra police officer will be working in the Clematis Street corridor beginning this evening.

The move to increase the number of officers in the downtown area came from a decision the Downtown Development Authority made as a way to respond to concerns about recent crime on Clematis Street. 

The additional officer position is an overtime detail the DDA will pay for a 90 day period.

DDA Executive Director Raphael Clemente said he has received feedback from stakeholders who wanted to see more of a police presence on Clematis Street following two stabbings and a shooting downtown within a two-month period.

“The DDA has stepped up to the plate because they wanted to see more people down there or more officers down there. This is the way we can guarantee that we put somebody exactly where they’d like to have them,” said Chief Sarah Mooney of the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Chief Mooney said department resources are moved depending on the need and this was the fastest way to guarantee an officer would be assigned to Clematis Street. 

The recent violence Downtown has been a concern for business owners like Russ Griffin. Then, over the weekend vandals struck is Finer Optics shop. 

"Sure enough it was three knuckle heads on the street just tearing stuff up," said Griffin. 

On Sunday afternoon Griffin's surveillance cameras caught this, one man urinating in the bushes in front of his store, another breaking off the railing outside his store. Ironically, the men moved on just seconds before a pair officers rolled by. This is why the DDA decided to foot the bill for another police officer to patrol Clematis. The price tag: 30-thousand dollars for 90 days. 

Mayor Jeri Muoio worries more police won't necessarily deter crime.

"I don't want this to be looking like a police state where we have police, a police officer on every corner," said the Mayor. "Even if a police officer was right there, it might not have been able to stop it." 

The DDA has also partnered with The Lord's Place to create The Clean Team, a program that employs its clients to clean up downtown and make contact with other homeless individuals to help connect them with resources. 

"We clean up, try to clean up debris," said Patricia Lamb, who is a client of The Lord's Place and runs the Clean Team program. 

The Mayor says that program coupled with several resources offered by the city is helping tackle homelessness Downtown, but wants local stakeholders and visitors Downtown to know they can always call police if a situation turns into harassment. 

"If you feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, call the police, that's what they are here for," added Mayor Muoio.