Olympia businesses, workers worried about safety as nightly police foot patrols end

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- As day turns to night, many in downtown Olympia say they feel unsafe.

To make matters worse, Olympia Police say they have no choice but to stop their nightly walking patrols in the downtown area.

Inside Jamie Lee & Co, hairstylist Missa Bodine feels safe at work but it's a different story when she is going home at night.

“I am more concerned about the drunks leaving the bar than the homeless people,” Bodine said.

Longtime Olympia resident Cecelia Sommerville says it wasn’t always this way

“I think we have a really big problem with drugs and it’s gotten worse,” Sommerville said.

Both women say the two police officers on foot patrol every night from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. have made a big difference.

“I’ve actually come to rely on them to keep an eye on me,” Bodine said.

But now those nightly patrols are going away. Olympia police say they simply don’t have enough patrol officers to go around due to retirements.

The Olympia Police Department has 28 patrol officers -- that is 10 fewer than what they say they should have.

Jeffrey Trinin, owner of Always Safe & Lock, is one of more than 400 Olympia businesses that clamored for the nightly patrols. Trinin is also on the board of Parking Business Improvement Area that supports the patrols.

“It creates a better community rapport,” Trinin said.

Now he and others are worried about vandalism, loiterers and overall more violence on the streets.

“I’ve been harassed and grabbed quite a few times,” Sommerville said.

Olympia Police say they have the recruits but with training, it could take at least 18 months to get those new officers back on the streets at night.

Until then, people who work and live in Olympia say they will be more on guard.

“I don’t feel safe walking from just my car to the bar or wherever I am going,” Sommerville said.

Olympia Police will continue to have two officers walk the downtown area during the daytime hours. The night patrols will end Friday. Business owners can  call 911 if there is a problem but some business owners say it is not the same type of presence that helps deter crime.

The Olympia City Council approved about $70,000 in 2015 to start the patrols. They funded it again for 2016 but now the money has run out.

But the police department says the patrol cuts are more about staffing than the money.