Submitted by Downtown Bellingham Partnership

The Downtown Bellingham Partnership (DBP), in partnership with the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BRCC), invite the public and business community to a town hall meeting focusing on the city center’s safety and security.

The public meeting is scheduled Tuesday, September 20 at 5:00 pm at the Old City Hall in the Rotunda Room. 

The town hall features a panel discussion about State of Washington laws enacted in 2021 resulting in change to law enforcement response, pursuit, and arrest authority. Local response agencies supporting mental health and substance use interventions and treatment alongside, or in replacement to law enforcement teams, will also be present. Panelists include 40th District State Representative Alex Ramel, 42nd District Representative Alicia Rule, Bellingham Police Department Deputy Chief Don Almer, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo, and Malora Christensen and Gail DeHoog from the Whatcom County Health Department’s Ground-Level Response and Coordinated Engagement program (GRACE). 

The DBP and the BRCC organized the event to inform the public about what laws were changed, the local impact, how to response teams are developing operations. 

“Our downtown community reports a substantial change in police response time, availability, and action since the laws changed last year. We also know property theft, among other crime, has risen in parallel,” says DBP Executive Director, Alice Clark. “We felt it was important to host a community check-in as we approach a full year of enactment. We hope this unique opportunity to hear about the rationale, current models to support change, and future options with stakeholders from government and police.”

“Public safety is vital to a successful community,” says BRCC President and CEO, Guy Occhiogrosso. “Throughout our region, we are seeing increased safety concerns, and it feels that many of those are based in our downtown area. A vibrant downtown is crucial for our community — we need our businesses, employees, customers, and visitors to feel safe and welcome.”

The event will run from 5–6:30 pm with doors opening at 4:30 pm and is free to the public.

More information related to the event Lens on Law Enforcement Reform & Legislature: Town Hall can be found on DBP’s website.

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