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Downtown patrols to target loiterers; Residents report offensive language.

Byline: J.P. Ellery

WARREN - A discussion on how to control loitering downtown began with criticism, but ended with a consensus.

The Board of Selectmen and Police Chief Glenn F. McKiel agreed Tuesday to add foot patrols in downtown Warren and West Warren in an effort to deal with the problem.

However, before that decision was made, Bonita R. Porter, who identified herself as lawyer for Mad Dog Cafe on Main Street, the area in which loiterers have congregated, criticized Chief McKiel for singling out Mad Dog Cafe and nearby Mr. Bob's Bargain Center as likely attractions for the loiterers. The chief's comments were made in a recent interview with the Telegram & Gazette.

"The worst thing to do is point fingers," Ms. Porter said. "It's unfair to the businesses." She said it is tough enough for new businesses to succeed without having to deal with adverse publicity.

She said it was wrong to suggest that these businesses cater to young people because "I haven't seen young people frequenting Mad Dog Cafe."

Selectmen and Chief McKiel apologized if people got the wrong idea. The intent was not to disparage any downtown businesses.

"This board is very pro-business," Selectman David A. Delanski said.

The chief reminded those on hand that young people have a right to congregate.

"It's a fine line that we walk," he said. "What we try to do is work with them."

Warren had a loitering bylaw in the 1980s, Chief McKiel said, but it was repealed by voters in 1985 as unconstitutional. There is no such bylaw now.

Residents at the meeting said the loitering has abated somewhat in recent days, but the congregating of young people is not as much of a problem, they said, as the "foul language" the loiterers use, which passers-by have to put up with.

Selectman Marc W. Richard said the board has received complaints from residents who say they feel uncomfortable shopping in their hometown because of the loiterers.

There are apartments above some of the downtown storefronts, and town officials indicated that some of the young people who congregate in the area apparently live in those apartments.

"I don't think it is a given right that you can have any number of your friends on the sidewalk (because you live in those apartments)," Mr. Richard said.

He also acknowledged that times have changed in terms of language used by some people, but times have not changed regarding hanging around in downtown Warren or lots of other area towns.

"I'm 55 years old," Mr. Richard said, "and this has been going on since I was a kid."

NAME: WARREN SELECTMEN
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 13, 2007
Words:438
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