ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Our view: Don't say 'neigh' to horse patrols

Duluth police made great strides to make sure workers, shoppers, tourists and others downtown were safe -- and felt safe, too, Chief Gordon Ramsay told the News Tribune Opinion page last week.

222649+horse0626_500px.jpg
Nine years after they’ve been cut, Duluth police Chief Gordon Ramsay wants to re-establish mounted patrols in downtown. Pictured here are Jiggs and his two-legged partner, Duluth police officer Jim Rose. (File / News Tribune)

Duluth police made great strides to make sure workers, shoppers, tourists and others downtown were safe -- and felt safe, too, Chief Gordon Ramsay told the News Tribune Opinion page last week.

That started changing, unfortunately, in about 2011 when the sales and misuse of synthetic drugs took off and downtown suddenly became a gloomier, seemingly less-secured place.

So call in the cavalry, right?

Actually, that's not written in jest. Accompanied by a sensible, anyone-but-taxpayers strategy to pay for it, Ramsay has a plan to bring back mounted horse police patrols that's a galloping good idea.

"One mounted officer is as good as having several officers on foot," Ramsay told the Opinion page days after the News Tribune broke the story of the most horse-sense portion of Ramsay's strategic safety plan. "They provide a memorable police presence like no other. In addition, mounted patrols are extremely effective in busy areas. ... While the perception (of crime and safety) does not match in all cases with actual crime statistics, we need to ensure we are doing all we can to ensure the economic vitality of downtown."

ADVERTISEMENT

Ramsay knows firsthand how valuable mounted officers can be, how they sit high above a crowd, nine or 10 feet off the ground, and can be seen from long distances, deterring crime across more vast areas than officers on foot, in cars or even on bikes. Prior to becoming chief, Ramsay supervised the Duluth department's mounted patrol. It disbanded in 2004 when a lease on a stable area in Canal Park expired.

The horse patrols were being paid for then with about $300,000 a year from the city's tourism tax collections. That made sense since many of those in Canal Park and downtown who were being protected by the horse patrols were tourists. Also, horse patrols helped boost Duluth's quaint and charming image among visitors.

The use of tourism taxes for mounted patrols makes sense now, too, especially with the city collecting more and more as our tourism industry swells.

But before tapping that funding source, Ramsay, the city and the Greater Downtown Council are seeking grants and donations to re-establish the mounted patrols. The cost is estimated at $10,000 to $12,000 per horse annually plus start-up costs. Ramsay said he'd like to have two to four 1,200-pound horses. In addition, Ramsay said the department is looking for a visible location for a horse stable downtown, but no spot has been identified.

The chief hopes to have Duluth's mounted patrol back in action by late this year or early next year.

"The good guys love them and the bad guys don't," Ramsay told the News Tribune's Mark Stodghill of police officers on horses. With creative funding to pay for it -- and not just initially but on an ongoing basis, too -- all of Duluth, and its visitors, can love them just as much.

Related Topics: CANAL PARKCRIMEOUR VIEW
What To Read Next