The Street Crimes Unit of the Rapid City Police Department has focused on cleaning up public drunkenness, panhandling and other crimes from the city's downtown district. Now, the unit is starting to branch out into other neighborhoods.
Early Monday afternoon, members from unit responded to a complaint about people drinking in Art Alley. It's a common call for the unit, which began in the spring of 2010.
"The Street Crimes Unit has been active for several years. Right now, we're putting more manpower in it to become more proactive," Senior Officer Kyle Akers of the Street Crimes Unit said.
Because the Street Crimes Unit has been largely successful in helping to clean up downtown Rapid City, the force is moving into neighborhoods in North Rapid.
"The same things that were happening downtown are spilling into the neighborhoods. That brings the whole neighborhood down. We want to bring the neighborhoods up not down," Akers said.
Many people who live and work in parts of North Rapid agree, and some say the problems are getting worse.
"A lot of alcoholism, a lot of fighting, people not getting along. We've had more trouble here in the last probably six months than we have in the last eight years that we've been here," North Rapid business manager Tim Lipp said.
Police are already called to the neighborhood off of East Watertown Street on a daily basis. The hope is an enhanced police presence will put an end to that.
"They're here quite a bit already, but if they emphasize more on cleaning it up and getting some of these places that I don't think are livable out, maybe it would get rid of some of the people that come along with it," Lipp said.
"If they know us by first name and know we're going to be in the neighborhood, they're going to go somewhere else to do it and hopefully not in Rapid City," Akers said.
The Street Crimes Unit has had a roster of between four and six officers, depending on the season. Thanks to a federal grant, the unit will grow to nine officers and work in two parts, one focusing on selected North Rapid neighborhoods and the other continuing work in the downtown district.