The Cheyenne Police Department has started conducting extra patrols in downtown Cheyenne to address public concerns over issues involving homeless people in the area.

Officer Kevin Malatesta says "Operation Change" is a response to the perception of homeless people committing crimes in downtown Cheyenne.

The program, which was launched April 1, will be a multi-faceted effort offer help to homeless people as well as enforce local ordinances. Besides the police, several churches, Peak Wellness, Comea Shelter, the Downtown Development Authority and the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce are working together on the program.

Malatesta says actually homeless people commit very few violent crimes in Cheyenne, and even less often attack non-transients. He says transients most often are found guilty of public intoxication and similar alcohol-related offenses.

A lot of the cases of public intoxication happen in the area of the Spiker Parking Garage. Cheyenne Police records show officers were called to 122 ''impaired persons" reports at the garage in the last three years, and alcohol offense at the garage are much more common than any reports of violent crimes.

Malatesta says a recent Downtown Development Authority survey found that while over 81 percent of survey respondents said they feel either somewhat safe or very safe in the downtown area, almost 37 percent said they don't see many police officers in the area. Officer Malatesta says from now on people can expect to see a lot more officers and volunteers on foot patrol, bicycles and on horseback in the downtown area.

He says the CPD and Peak Wellness will be working with the courts to get help for transients with addiction problems. But he also says that since being homeless is not a crime, police can't arrest someone just for being a transient.

Malatesta says more announcements about the program will be made over the next few weeks.

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