Vagrancy leads to increased patrols in downtown Tyler - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Vagrancy leads to increased patrols in downtown Tyler

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

After complaints of vagrancy and more foot traffic, Tyler Police say they have spread out patrol units in the downtown Tyler area. 

Tyler Police say part of the reason is that some downtown businesses were complaining about the homeless people spending their days downtown. 
     
Police say they launched a new program to meet the needs of the downtown area, but not all businesses agree there was ever a problem to begin with. 

A police officer patrolling a downtown Tyler apartment Thursday afternoon says most of the traffic is homeless people and transients passing through town. 
 
"The people who frequented the area and the business owners all asked for police officers to be in that area and to make a more personal interaction with them, so this program came out," said Doyle Lynch with the Tyler Police Department.  

Police say it's been in effect for a few months now, and they are patrolling specific downtown areas.

"It gives officers an opportunity to get down in that area where it's congested, move around and interact with people on a more personal level," said Lynch. "It's received very positive response."

Sources say there were several complaints about homeless people sleeping and bathing near businesses in the downtown area. Business owner Felecia Holloway says she's never considered it a problem. 

"They said that they've become concerned about things like that but you know, I mean where else are they going to sleep? You know where else are they going to sit during the day? They can't just get in their car and go home because they don't have that," said Holloway.

About a month ago, the county removed the benches near the fountain downtown for repairs. Since then, Holloway's noticed the homeless haven't been on the square, where some used to spend their days.

"There's a reason they took the benches away. Not any justified reason, but to thin out the people and make downtown shoppers and customers more comfortable, but the thing is I don't think they had a reason to be uncomfortable to begin with," said Holloway.    
     
After a Smith County Commissioner's meeting on May 15, Smith County Judge Joel Baker said businesses also complained to the county about vagrancy downtown. At that time, Baker said the county and city were planning to work together to control what some consider an issue. 

The county says they're either going to repair the benches and picnic tables or purchase new ones to put downtown.

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