PORT TOWNSEND — With summer in full swing, downtown stores are experiencing a welcome increase in business due to an influx of tourists.
But with more people, the risk of theft rises, according to Port Townsend Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen.
“It’s useful for business owners to be aware of theft prevention techniques and personal safety, and Main Street will be offering a presentation to business owners,” said Mullen.
Port Townsend Police Detective Patrick Fudally will present a program on de-escalation and theft prevention tips during a Merchant Coffee talk July 25 at the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., at 8:30 a.m.
Fudally will discuss store security, theft prevention and personal safety for store employees.
Brandon Ellard, assistant manager of Quimper Mercantile, said his business is slower than usual, but that it’s most likely due to the Water Street Enhancement Project, which is wrapping up this week.
What Ellard has seen, however, is a marked change in the clientele in the area.
“There’s an increase in unwell people, I’d say,” Ellard noted. “It often makes the crew feel uncomfortable closing up the store alone.
“Two years ago, they would not have been saying that.”
Julian Alvarado, buyer/supervisor for the store, is blunt about the cause of his concern.
“With the transient community, we’ve gotten a lot more obvious, blatant mental illness and people who are inebriated or high in the store. It puts us in an awkward position because they do have money and they want to spend,” said Alvarado who graduated from Port Townsend High School and said he has seen the community change in the past couple of years.
Some of the situations have tested the staff.
“A man who had a social services voucher bought seven knives and a pair of pants,” said Alvarado. “When he reached his spending limit, instead of taking the pants, he decided to take all the knives. I saw the same man two days later in front of the Co-Op with our Quimper Mercantile bag and people crowded around it. I assume he was using it as street currency to get money.”
Alvarado said he’s never felt like he’s been in personal danger.
“I’ve noted more frequency of that type of individual and the correlation in the rise of theft. Thankfully, the aggressive ones have been few and far between.”
Ellard said the store has taken steps to keep employees and its customers safe.
“Port Townsend Detective Patrick Fudally came to a staff meeting with us, went over procedures and protocol and said if for any reason, at any point, someone feels threatened to back off, let another person take over and call the police. They have been wonderful,” Ellard said.
“This Main Street training should be a Port Townsend thing, and people should know how to handle themselves, with actual police information and guidance and support.
“It might give people a good sense of security and support. This a larger community conversation.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].