Ask Us: Will downtown businesses need to pay for additional police in social district?
Published 7:47 pm Monday, March 28, 2022
Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to email@example.com.
SALISBURY — Police Chief Jerry Stokes says he doesn’t anticipate additional officers will be needed for a downtown social district if approved because it won’t require additional workload.
At the March 15 City Council meeting, council members informally gave the green light to a downtown social district, which would allow consumers to purchase alcohol from state-licensed businesses and restaurants and walk around a designated district with specially marked cups. Downtown Salisbury Inc. has led the initiative since last fall when state lawmakers passed a law allowing North Carolina cities to take advantage of this economic opportunity. Kannapolis enacted its district in October shortly after the legislation passed.
A reader asked whether businesses will need to pay for additional police presence if the district is approved.
DSI has cited a number of pros for the district, including business growth, increased downtown spending and another revenue stream for businesses.
Originally, DSI proposed the entirety of the Municipal Services District, or the area formally deemed downtown. But safety concerns among youth prompted council members to suggest tightened boundaries and hours. Now, the new map shows the district bounded by the intersection block of Jackson and Innes streets, Fisher and Church streets, across Horah to Lee Street and from Fisher to Cemetery Street.
Council members are expected to take a formal vote at the April 5 meeting.
Stokes told the Post he doesn’t anticipate an additional workload as officers are already present downtown during late evening and early morning hours due to the number of establishments that serve alcohol. Likewise, he doesn’t expect any costs to the department to maintain regular patrol of the area.
“I don’t expect to have more problems that will necessitate an increased presence merely because the social district is in place,” he said.
DSI held discussions with various groups before making the formal proposal, including merchants, church leaders and the police department. It estimates a cost short of $12,000 to get the district started, with the city on the hook for one-time purchase of boundary signs and official district stickers. DSI would be responsible for posters and door stickers. Merchants would be responsible buying cups, sticks and trash and recycling bins.
Stokes said he’s been upfront since the first meeting that he’s unable to provide any resources beyond what’s currently provided. Additionally, he’s unable to provide off-duty or overtime pay to officers to assist on-duty officers in the district because “we have reached capacity on the need for off-duty officers as well.”
“While I’m not opposed and expect it to be positive in general for downtown, I would not be able to provide any additional services than what we do now,” Stokes said. “That has nothing to do with any current staffing challenges, but the fact the department is at capacity with providing services overall.”