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Archive for March 3rd, 2009|Daily archive page

Police Department is going after the BB, pellet and paintball guns

In City Hall, Police Department on March 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm

The Police Department will ask the City Council this week to ban adults and juveniles from carrying BB, air, paintball or pellet guns in public if they aren’t in a case, unloaded.


The request comes after a weekend in which the department received more than 150 reports of vandals shooting out windows with BB guns.


However, police Capt. Bernie Walther said Tuesday that the move to ban the carrying of BB guns and similar guns in public has been in the works for more than a year as part of the city’s initiative called Enhance Our Neighborhoods.


“I wish there was some way to get rid of them all,” Sandy Bell, president of CR Neighborhoods and president of her own neighborhood association, Lincolnway Village, said Tuesday. “Even when they’re not shooting out car windows, they’re shooting at neighbors’ dogs or something else.”


Walther noted that the cities of Iowa City and Waterloo are among those that already have bans on carrying BB guns and those like them.


Such a public ban is intended to reduce vandalism. But Walther said the ban also will lessen the chance that a police officer or a citizen will shoot someone carrying what looks like a real gun.


“We’re running into kids with these things tucked in their waistband, and sooner or later somebody is going to get seriously hurt because someone is going to take that as a real firearm,” he said. “I’m sure you’ve seen what some of these look like. They’re definitely realistic looking.”


From 2003 through 2008, the Police Department received an average of 1,170 criminal mischief reports each year involving BB guns, paintballs and similar items. Walther said that total is more than 50 percent of all the criminal mischief reports that come into the department.


At $200 a car window, that’s about $1.4 million in property damage, he added.


Walther said there also have been additional crimes against people in which BB guns or other similar items have been used or displayed.


A big part of the problem for police officers is that they can catch a person with a BB gun in the vicinity of vandalism but can’t prove the person did the shooting. With a law change, it will be a crime, a simple misdemeanor, to have the gun. Juveniles will be brought to the police station and their parents summoned, Walther said.


The ban, he noted, does not prohibit a parent from going to an outdoor range for target practice or from taking a child to such a venue for practice.


He said the change in ordinance will treat the BB-gun-like products no differently than firearms. Adults who own firearms can’t carry them in public and they can’t fire them at home except in self-defense, Walther noted.


Officers, he added, will have the option to use discretion.


“If little Johnny just got his little Daisy Red Ryder (BB gun) for his birthday and he’s running down the street to show his buddy, obviously, there’s officer discretion in that,” Walther said.


Council readies to pick site for new Intermodal bus depot; but construction won’t start until May 2011 with completion in late 2013

In City Hall on March 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

The City Council this week is poised to pick between two downtown spots for a new bus depot called the Intermodal Transit Facility.

The first is owned by Pepsi at the 400 block of Sixth Avenue SE and the second site, across from Greene Square Park in the 400 block of Fourth Avenue SE, houses TrueNorth, an insurance and financial services firm.

Owners at both sites are interested in selling.

The city has been trying to build the Intermodal for some years now and is now looking at a fourth site for it. It has had a $9-million federal grant for the project since 2002.

The plan now -– once a new site is picked this month -– is to conduct a feasibility study and an environmental assessment between May and October of 2009; acquire the property between November 2009 and May 2011; and design and build the facility between May 2011 and November 2013, according to a staff report prepared by the city’s Department of Community Development.

Most recently, the plan has been for the Intermodal to be a multistory building with offices, and perhaps even residential units, on the upper floors.

According to the staff report, the Pepsi site has more advantages and more disadvantages than the TrueNorth site.

The advantages of the Pepsi site are these: an interested seller; only one owner to deal with; meets the council’s evaluation criteria; provides a chance to move the Pepsi warehouse operation to an area with similar uses; and requires the purchase of more than one block needed for the Intermodal, which could be used for other civic purposes.

The disadvantages of the Pepsi site: the need to buy more than one block; and the need for a plan for reuse or sale of the extra property.

As for the TrueNorth site, the advantages are: a willing seller; and meets the council’s evaluation criteria. The disadvantage: multiple property owners could delay the property purchase.

Both the Pepsi and TrueNorth sites are outside the 100-year flood plain, and the TrueNorth site is outside the 500-year flood plain.

In April of 2008, the council decided to build the Intermodal on Third Street SE between Ninth and 10th avenues SE. After the June flood, though, the Federal Transit Administration rejected the site because it is in the 100-year flood plain.

Initially, the Intermodal was going to be built across from the U.S. Cellular Center on First Avenue SE. Then during the Paul Pate mayoral administration, the proposed building was moved to a vacant site on Second Street SE between Sixth and Seventh avenues SE.

The current council nearly began building the Intermodal on that site. However, council member Pat Shey spoke up, saying that it didn’t make any sense to build another transit facility two blocks from the existing one. A Minneapolis consultant agreed, saying that the design of the proposed Intermodal, which was part transit facility and part parking ramp, would be out of date for both transit and parking on the day it opened. She also said the configuration of the existing Ground Transportation Center bus depot, where buses backed from parking stalls, was a public safety hazard.

The June flood damaged the GTC depot. By then the council decided to close the depot and incorporate those transit activities with others in a new Intermodal. The most recent plans have not had a parking ramp associated with the new building.