City leaders discuss growing safety concerns in downtown Fargo

Valley News Live at 10:00PM KVLY - VOD
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 11:26 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The need for addressing public safety in downtown Fargo is sparking conversation among neighbors and city leaders.

“It’s getting more and more stressful just to walk the streets,” said Kyler Renfrow, a resident of downtown Fargo.

Renfrow regularly walks his dog down Broadway, but now says he no longer feels safe walking through downtown.

“Groups of 10 to 12 people, who are sitting on the ground, they’ve got backpacks and even obviously alcohol bottles,” he said.

Renfrow says he has seen a significant increase in people experiencing homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health crises.

“Someone threatened me because they wanted to have my shirt and I wouldn’t give my shirt,” he said.

Renfrow isn’t the only one noticing the issue.

“My wife and I wanted to go downtown. We don’t even feel safe going down there during the day,” said Fargo resident Glenn Knudson. “What is the city of Fargo becoming.”

Now, some Fargo City Commissioners are getting involved.

“Right now the perception is that our downtown is not safe,” said Commissioner Dave Piepkorn. “What’s going on now is that is not acceptable. We have on a daily basis of the law-abiding citizens of Fargo.”

Community activists say more needs to be done to help those going through a crisis including setting aside aid in the city budget.

“Fargo has a homeless problem. There’s so much money in our city. We need to find a solution to the problem,” said Faith Dixon, a local activist.

Activist Wess Philome added, “I think for me two big things that are abundantly clear that needs to be addressed, are mental health resources and resources for addiction.”

Commissioner Piepkorn says the solution goes beyond getting more resources.

“Police presence is very important in the downtown area. Visible police presence,” he said.

Fargo PD agrees the need for more officers downtown is crucial.

“What I am going to commit to is that, as we improve our staffing over the next several months, that is one of the top priorities to put more officers downtown,” said Captain Chris Helmick.

While it may take time to come up with a resolution, city leaders say the conversation must keep going.