FARGO-A crime hotspot in downtown Fargo is Empire Tavern, a bar at 424 Broadway. And Greg Danz, the owner of a variety shop next door, suffers.
Broadway can be downright "scary," said Danz, owner of Zandbroz Variety bookstore.
Many other downtown residents echoed Danz's complaints about safety at a neighborhood meeting Wednesday night that drew about 40.
Fargo police officials were joined by city electeds for an hourlong discussion about downtown's crime trends and how to stop them.
One woman said that to avoid running into groups hanging out by the Empire, she takes a roundabout way when she goes to shop at Zandbroz.
"We'll completely skirt around the other side of the street," she said. "We just don't feel real safe."
Mayor Tim Mahoney said, "We're not a little downtown anymore."
Dave Anderson said the crime was a byproduct of a growth.
"We wanted vibrancy, we wanted density, we wanted thousands of people living downtown," he said, and that's what Fargo got.
But what didn't change significantly, he said, was the amount of resources spent to maintain the area's safety.
"We don't really have a different police presence than we've ever had," he said. "The resources haven't kept up." This year's city budget includes money to hire new police officers.
About a week ago, police Lt. Chris Helmick took charge of District 1, which covers the downtown area.
He said the neighborhood is safe but "we have some challenges" and he was formulating his strategy to tackle them.
Police Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt used to oversee District 1. He said the 400 block of Broadway was a big area of concern, especially around the Empire.
He presented data for the last few months of 2015 showing that the bar was a hub for aggravated assaults. The assaults happened mainly late Saturday night around bar close.
Thefts were another problem in the neighborhood. They were spread throughout downtown-making them harder to combat-but they, too, seemed to happen late at night on the weekend.
Ahlfeldt said he took a few steps late last year to get a grip on the issues around the Empire.
Police contacted the Empire and asked management to replace lights on the dark north side parking lot and trim trees under which people were secretly drinking in public. Police also asked the bar to clean up the discarded alcohol bottles and cans outside the establishment.
In October, officers were sent to do "concentrated work" in the 400 block, which led to a reduction in calls for service, Ahlfeldt said. Police also searched apartments above the bar, leading to two drug-related arrests, Ahlfeldt said.
Many residents asked for advice about what they could do. City and police officials answered that residents should report any issues they have and make their feelings known to their electeds.
Police noted that alcohol is the root of many of the problems downtown. "We can put as many cops as you want down there," Deputy Chief Ross Renner said, but that won't change people's drinking habits.
Mike Hahn, the president of Downtown Community Partnership, which represents many downtown businesses, suggested that liquor stores be banned downtown.
"That's something that the downtown community wants to consider," he said.
But Danz, despite the problems alcohol has created for his business, said that was too extreme.
"To me, that's the wrong answer," he said. "We should be able to have off-sale downtown for people." Maybe the answer, he said, is "a different type of off-sale."
Officials also said they would start doing a better job tracking complaints and issues surrounding various bars so the information can be considered when the bars' liquor licences are up for review.