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Posted on Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Liberty Plaza: City leaders look for ways to end crime, vagrancy issues at park

By Kyle Feldscher


Liberty Plaza on a normal afternoon can be a spot for people eating their lunch and hanging out — as well as people drinking in public.

Courtney Sacco |

Movie stars have played in fake snow at Liberty Plaza. Hundreds of people go there on summer Thursdays for lunchtime concerts. Families have been drawn there by performances put on by the Ann Arbor District Library.

But this urban park in downtown Ann Arbor has earned a reputation that contrasts sharply with images of people relaxing at a summertime concert and children enjoying a library program.

Public drinking, drug use and fights aren’t rare occurrences in the concrete park at the southwest corner of Division and Liberty streets. Set a few steps down from the sidewalk, the two-tiered park has gained a less-than-flattering reputation since it first opened to public use in 1978.

“The park has off and on been a problem for years,” said John Teeter, property manager at First Martin Corp., the company that built and still maintains the park. “It’s a wonderful park when there’s programming. ... When there’s legitimate users in the park visiting, it’s wonderful.”

He pointed to the Thursday Sonic Lunch concerts, sponsored by Bank of Ann Arbor as an example of programming that works. But often, the park doesn't work well, he said.

“When you have people drinking, doing drugs, defecating and urinating near buildings or harassing someone trying to eat lunch, it’s a detriment to the area,” he added.

Teeter said Liberty Plaza has had cycles of criminal activities over the years, giving the place a reputation as a hangout for vagrants that may drive other residents away. But, those who use it have cultivated their own community. Many who regularly visit the park play chess, loan money to each other and engage in lively discussions.

Roughly 20 people milled about Liberty Plaza on a recent afternoon and nearly all of them greeted each other with smiles, handshakes and warm words. Some were quietly eating their lunch in the early afternoon sunshine while others skateboarded around benches and trees. The scene was a far cry from Teeter’s worst-case scenario of people being driven away by unruly park users.

“People down here are cool, man,” said Jacob Dorsten, a homeless man hanging out in the park. “I’ve never seen any trouble here.”

A problem of design

The park was built at the same time as 330 E. Liberty St., starting in 1977. The building and park were both owned by the First Martin Corporation, which donated the park to the city but continues to clean the area, trim the trees and do other maintenance work.


The Sonic Lunch concert program on summer Thursdays attracts large crowds to Liberty Plaza.

Melanie Maxwell |

The two-tiered nature of the plaza, with a seating area five steps below street level and another smaller area, and the bushes that used to line the edges immediately attracted behavior that could be hidden from police view.

Mayor John Hieftje said he took an interest in the park back in 2001, when he started eating lunch there every Monday. Hieftje emphasized the park’s importance to then-police Chief Dan Oates and the Ann Arbor police made a number of arrests for drug sales in the area, helping to clear out a criminal element. New benches were put in, the bushes were cleared away and the park improved, Hieftje said.

Recently, however, the amount of illegal activity has been on the rise again, police say. They've been called to the park to deal with arguments and public drunkenness. One woman was accused of threatening a man with a knife.

Hieftje admits there’s much more work to be done. “The place has really come a long way, but it’s not where I’d like it to be,” he said.

Hieftje sees a potential redesign of the park as one way to limit illegal activities in Liberty Plaza.

The lack of foot traffic generators around Liberty Plaza has long been a problem, Hieftje said. A newsstand and the Pan Tree restaurant that were in the First Martin building used to generate activity, but those have since gone away.

However, with the new underground Library Lane parking structure, which opened on Fifth Avenue nearby this summer, more people will walk through Liberty Plaza to get to the Liberty Street and the State Street area, Hieftje said. He pictures the parking garage as one of the new sparks leading to more foot traffic in the area, which could create an influx of new life into Liberty Plaza.

Among changes being considered are filling in the sunken areas so that the park is all on street level, Hieftje said. A specific timeline hasn’t been developed yet for construction, but Hieftje said he would like to have a concept in the works by the spring of 2013.

“Urban parks need to be visible,” he said. “We need eyes on the park.”

One park user’s story

Jacob Dorsten estimated he’s hung out in Liberty Plaza 20 to 25 times during his time in Ann Arbor. He came to the city from Detroit because Ann Arbor was the closest place with a homeless shelter and provided him with safety, he said.

He’s been all over the country, selling magazines door-to-door to make a few dollars and now mostly panhandling. He said he’s honest about what he wants money for.

“When I was beginning, people would try and buy me food,” he said, laughing. “I would be like … I want alcohol.”

On a recent afternoon, he poured his pint of vodka into a water bottle when he saw an Ann Arbor police officer walk across Division Street. He's well practiced in the art of hiding his drinking from police, he said, having developed an addiction to alcohol during the last five years of his life when he said he started drinking to deal with life on the streets.

Dorsten shook hands and greeted numerous people while sitting in Liberty Plaza, chatting with them about their lives and the weather. He said there’s a definite sense of community among the people who frequent Liberty Plaza.

He said his path to homelessness began five years ago when he was living in Ecorse and working at a local McDonald’s. Dorsten said he was beaten by three men during a robbery and remembers being kicked in the face roughly 50 times before being lifted up.

“I thought they were going to let me go. One dude held me up and another guy pulled out a blade,” he said.

Dorsten’s left cheek still bears the scar that the knife left from his ear to the side of his mouth.

When he showed up to work a few days later, after being treated at a local hospital, Dorsten said he was fired because he didn’t call in to tell his bosses he would miss a shift. He sold as many of his possessions as he could to pay for another month’s rent and, when that ran out, he started driving south. Eventually, his car broke down in Atlanta and he sold what he could for scrap metal. He’s been homeless since, moving from place to place before ending up in Detroit and then Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor isn’t his favorite city that he’s stayed in during the last five years — that would be Los Angeles — but he’s enjoyed his time here. The people here are friendly, he says, and he doesn’t have to worry about people suddenly robbing him after putting on a friendly face. Despite the fact that he mentioned the social services in Ann Arbor as a reason for coming here, he hasn’t sought treatment for his alcoholism yet.

“It’s so hard to get into rehab,” he said. “It’s hard just to get in the shelter. A lot of transient people come because it’s a college town and it’s safe and that’s why I came here.”

He won’t be here for long, though. The leaves on the trees are starting to change colors and the temperatures at night are starting to dip. Dorsten knows winter is on its way.

When asked what he’s going to do, he simply says, “I’m goin’ down south. Winter’s coming.”

Policing the plaza

Ann Arbor police officers are a regular fixture at Liberty Plaza. It’s not unusual to see a police car parked on Division or Liberty or an officer walking through the area just to check out what’s going on.

Ann Arbor police Chief John Seto said officers mostly respond to arguments or reports of intoxicated people in the park. There’s no specific strategy to police Liberty Plaza that's different from other places in the city, but officers do pay extra attention to the park.

“We respond to calls for service like any other park or location,” he said, “but, in addition, we dedicate time to do extra patrols in the park.”

Seto said city parks regularly go through cycles of crime, some more severe than others. Currently, Liberty Plaza is going through a period when police feel there is a bigger need for their presence.

Teeter wants to see an even bigger police presence in the plaza and says the city as a whole needs to stop tolerating the behavior that goes on there.

“Police presence will resolve the issue,” he said. “And, you don’t tolerate people being drunk and doing drugs in public and defecating and urinating in the park.”

The official hours of the park, as marked on multiple signs , are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and it’s quite obvious from other signs that alcohol is banned in the park. One sign reading “Alcohol is prohibited in the park” has a spray painted line underneath the word “prohibited” — perhaps a vandal's failed attempt to cross it out.

Seto said the department has worked to increase presence in the park — Hieftje pointed toward more police on bicycles and more foot patrols in 2012 as proof — and assured residents the park is an area the department emphasizes to its patrol officers.

“We have increased our presence through patrols, as we have in other parts of the city depending on the situation that’s occurring or the time of day,” he said. “We’re doing extra patrols and telling people that’s where we need to pay more attention.”

In February, police forced the removal of the last tents from the Occupy Ann Arbor movement. Tents being used by — one man, who said a month earlier he was no longer associated with the Occupy movement — were torn down and the man was forced to leave the park.

Last month, a 40-year-old woman was arrested in the park, accused of pulling a knife on a man who was throwing coins at her.

The redesign of the park excites Seto and he said police are eager to lend their voices to the process. He said there haven’t been any meetings for him to make suggestions on how the park should be laid out to make it safer, but he’s looking forward to being included in that process.

“I would be eager to contribute input from the police standpoint,” he said. “We have suggestions about how to make the park more user friendly for all people to use that park during all times of the day.”

Part of that change might come from the redesign, but Teeter firmly believes a change in attitude toward the park is necessary as well.

Liberty Plaza might have a reputation as a place where vagrants and drug and alcohol users hang out but that shouldn’t just be accepted by the general population, he said.

“This is not a homeless problem,” he said. “This is a problem with us tolerating that behavior."

Editor's note: Below is a short video showing the park in relation to the street and nearby businesses.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2 a.m.

Put more cops in the park or patrolling! I live down the street and have been taking the long way around the block just to avoid the park. Is this fair to me? Don't think so! And before people start pointing fingers at me....saying that I am anti homeless and not empathetic.....listen to my story! I am a nursing student and am very empathetic....especially when it comes to substance and drug abuse as it has been in my life since I was a child.....and I still am helping people with this because I know people need help....and people and the government do not make that easy sometimes....but why the hell do I need to take the long way around the block to make it home ....because I have been verbally and sexually harassed walking by there and just been fed up with it!!! I am very EMPATHETIC and that's why I chose my career route....but I must say....I REFUSE to keep feeling uncomfortable walking by there. I want to walk my niece down my block one day knowing she will not have to deal with some one intoxicated like I had to when I was her age and growing up and had no choice in the matter. Speaking of FAIR.....FAIR? If I could post what has been said to what people wanted to stick where and why I don't say hello and being called all sorts of things when I don't respond....and you want to talk about fair???? I don't deserve to be bashed by the very same community that I am making a career to help. The city needs to STOP IGNORING THE PINK ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM! I sure refuse to.


Sun, Sep 30, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

The vagrants in the park and the vicinity who are panhandling and using substances should be dealt with by the criminal justice system. Liberty Street from Fifth to State has been taken over and blighted by the behavior of vagrants. It is not family-friendly. As long as the panhandlers are "paid" by naive people who give them money, and as long as they and the vagrants are not dealt with by police, they will hang out in the area. A solution for everybody would be to buy offenders tickets to LA or Miami or Houston, where not only the climate be more favorable, but the authorities there might know how to handle vagrancy and panhandling. (It is obvious they don't know how to address it here in Ann Arbor.)


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 4:40 a.m.

Its a shame how some of the people on here are making the WHOLE homeless community look bad when indeed its not the whole homeless community. People are saying they should just move the homeless people elsewhere. What is that going to do ? Nothing! I am homeless and have been on the streets for almost a year now and i am only 18. I see how people who don't know what is like to be homeless treat the homeless. Not just the drunks and drug addicts but all of the homeless and i think that they just need to take a step back and think what if this was me. What if i had to go through this. I understand how some of the homeless people act with the drinking and the drugs but come on they are HOMELESS... what else do they have. I know drinking and doing drugs is not the solutions but i mean lots of people use that as a solution and its not even just homeless people who use drugs and alcohol as a solution to there problems. Most of these people who are drinking and doing drugs they have been doing them for years. Its not just like they can quite believe me i know. I'm part of the homeless community i see people who say there going to quite then start back up the next day. Maybe people should help these people instead of criticizing them. and also all homeless people aren't doing drugs or drinking. I hate when people put us all in the same category. Lots of people who are homeless are trying to find jobs,trying to find housing, and trying to get there lives together but with negative people who have a stigma towards homeless that sometimes can make it impossible. I know. I am homeless and working and looking for a second job and trying to find house while being pregnant. You don't see me out there drinking and doing drugs and that's because we all aren't like that. I just think maybe people should try to help solve the problem by doing something other than evacuating us. HELP US. You want Ann Arbor to be a better places take the steps towards doing that.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

"Stupid Hick -- 12:35 PM on 9/27/2012 "That says it all. Until A2 makes panhandling illegal" Why just treat the symptom? Why not go straight to the cause, and make being poor illegal?" ... ;'cause you would lose too many voters .. wait till after november.


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Boot them out Mr. Heftjie - or we'll boot you out.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

i know a good amount of people who hang out in liberty plaza. it has been christened 'the concrete diag' by some of my old crowd. if i happen to be downtown, it's a good place to smoke a cigarette without getting the stink eye from pedestrians. the 'vagrants' and whoever don't scare me, i used to be one. they all know when push comes to shove, i am perfectly able to fight back and they leave me alone. it also helps if you're willing to share cigarettes.

Michael Christie

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 6:04 p.m.

Are you kidding me!.? I wish the would have interviewed the residents of the area, like the people living at the Denali Building, especially those that have put editorial posts on this very site about women being harassed there. I've called the police at a minimum of 20 times about the illegal activities, verbal abuse, and my girlfriend being harassed there IN THE LAST YEAR ALONE. I've written emails to the city administrator and city parks manager, and most recently started a blog with pictures of the illegal activity - posting them to Twitter with the, A2gov, and A2parks on copy. And yet the Mayor thinks the park redesign will solve the problem. Talk about someone disconnected from the issue!!! It's certainly not the design of the park, or lack of patrols that exposes a beautiful park to illegal activity. The fact is that the people that RESIDE at the park on a daily basis are junkies. They depend on people on bikes to run the drugs and alcohol into the park, while the others beg for money to buy such purchases. You also have people bringing infants into the park and within arms reach people are smoking weed, so future generations will continue the trend. See the blog below... I will continue to expose the 'residents' until the Plaza is a place for all people to feel comfortable to have lunch, listen to music, and enjoy public space. I'm not going away, EVER, until the City, Police, and Parks Department do something to restore everyone freedom to enjoy.

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

Thanks for the post Michael. Our reporters are working on follow up stories regarding Liberty Plaza and other city parks so your input is appreciated.

Jack Campbell

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 4:38 p.m.

These bums should be sent packing.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

It's great that people want to help the homeless, but giving money directly to them is no the way to do that. Putting services downtown, where is scares the tax revenue (that would finance services for them) into the suburbs is not the way to do it.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

Surely it will seem cold and cruel to some readers, but I'd suggest closing Bum's Kitchen, aka Delonis Center. Having this mecca built to drifters and substance abusers largely, advertises Ann Arbor as a welcoming haven for those wishing to survive through the help of others, when in most cases they could get it together and not waste their time seeking handouts.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

I was visiting relatives in A2 last summer. I was astonished by all the street people and panhandlers hanging out at the Liberty Plaza park. It was like a flock of loud cackling birds. My wife and I were hounded by panhandlers up and down Liberty. I feel sorry for people who bought the loft condos nearby. The interview with the homeless guy, I think tells the story. The mayor and city council members should hang out there more often ... or maybe they were there and we didn't know it? Hey, on a side note, I wonder if all of these homeless and street people attracted to Ann Arbor for all of the social benefits have anything to do with all of the breaking & enterings/home invasions I read about in the crime column? Probably not, I suppose.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:18 a.m.

the greater the COMMONS the greater the TRAGEDY ... [you can look it up]


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:22 a.m.

10 PM Sept. 27th: 83 percent of those responding to this poll feel some degree of discomfort about being in and around Liberty Plaza. From this, I think it's safe to say that the majority believe there's a real problem with the vagrants hanging around LIberty Plaza. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) So we have on record that about 708 readers of would favor a positive solution. Well, as a long-time resident (and fan ) of Ann Arbor, maybe I can suggest one. That is: since we've seen a lot of parades and marches devoted to good causes here: why not have a legal and peaceful march to announce our conclusions about these vagrants? A march past Liberty Plaza with marchers bearing signs which express our opinion of vagrants (including the aggressive panhandlers and muggers) would make clear to them what we think of them. It would also be a signal to our political leaders to either put an end to this form of parasitism or leave it to us to do it for them. (A little political pressure never hurts when it's going to result in a positive outcome.) Rather than call for police action, why not just make clear that we no longer want or accept vagrants? Calling for police action on every issue can (and usually does) lead to higher expenditures for that service. It sometimes does also lead to police becoming more brutal and less discriminate in using force. A civil march for the cause could include signs, some music and a festive way of saying: We are free of the disgrace and danger associated with panhandlers and vagrants. It's been said that a new broom sweeps the cleanest. An anti-vagrancy march through the town would be that new broom. It's even likely that the news of our initiative would spread to other cities plagued by vagrants. Let's just un-invite them. And the 708 concerned readers of should be thinking of themselves as the ones to start the ball rolling.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

The unfortunate and sad truth is you can't have your cake and eat it too. Ann Arbor has strived to be a mecca for the homeless and drug users and with that comes some of the undesirable behaviors that go along with it. We closed down camp take notice where they were out of sight and brought theminto town. That's very noble and shows compassion for fellow man....all good stuff......but.....there is a reason many are homeless. Most have a history of drug use or mental illness, some have fallen on hard times. We don't differentiate between them. Ann Arbors strengths are it's weaknesses and we have made it very comfortable and many times more profitable to be homeless; at the same time we enable the drug users by allowing them to collect aid without drug testing and promoting marijuana as a totally acceptable form of recreation. That message is not lost on our children (I can speak from personal experiences) and that leads to trying new drugs with a little more kick. Once their brains are fried and their development is stunted they become what you complain about having to share the park with. Sad but true..........


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:04 p.m.

You are right about the cake. I think part of the problem is that A2 typically thinks with its heart and not its head; advertising to the world that you can get $200 a day panhandling here and room and board, etc. is part of the problem. Just because you WANT to help everyone with your human services money doesn't mean you ARE helping everyone with your human services money. Much like the situation with Public Art.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 8:38 p.m.

Camp Take Notice was NOT out of sight for the people who pay mortgages and property taxes in the nearby houses. They saw the street fill up with illegally parked cars, and they saw when things suddenly went missing from their yards.

Ron Granger

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

If the posters in this thread only knew of half the stuff that happens on the Diag, or on sidewalks after they are snug in their beds.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

And I DO know half the stuff. And 1) that stuff isn't usually accosting female passerby and asking everyone for money (although there is plenty of swearing) and 2) There IS actually a difference between after-midnight jerks who aren't disturbing a bunch of people and 24-hour vagrants who are ALWAYS making a public space unpleasant and unwelcoming.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

What does this have to do with Liberty Plaza?

Jay Thomas

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

The fact that Ann Arbor is the preferred off ramp for Detroit's homeless population is still galling to me. The former Police Chief used to dump people here when he was working in Wayne County (and the current administration thought he was the perfect candidate for the job!).

Top Cat

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I ate lunch there today. How come these people always have enough money for cigarettes ?

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

"Jack Campbell -- 6:30 PM on 9/27/2012 and cell phones." imported from cleveland?

Jack Campbell

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:30 p.m.

and cell phones.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:35 p.m.

Been saying it for years.......bring it up to street level, 75% of THAT issue solved.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:25 p.m.

Sounds like the real public park problem is the unreasonable belief of some that they, too, are part of the public, even though they so obviously are not one of the rest of us. Where do they think they are?

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

No member of the public is allowed to drink or trade drugs in public.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

It is a shame that there is a contingent that has a romantic view of homeless people and homelessness in general. While there are profoundly mentally ill people out there, people need to accept that many "homeless" people have made a choice to drop out of society. Most of these people are not noble people that have fallen on hard times. They have chosen the pipe or the bottle or the needle over their families, friends, and careers. They have decided that being completely irresponsible is preferable to hard work. I think we all have felt that at some time in our life, so this shouldn't be an abstract concept to those who are in denial. The sick get a pass. The rest will receive no sympathy from me. This isn't sub-saharan Africa or some failed state. If you want to work, you can make enough money to survive if you have half and ounce of hustle in you. This isn't some complex societal issues. What we have is a community that bends over backwards for people that want to take advantage of us. Let's help the sick, and the rest can go pound dirt for all I care. And before you accuse me of being some crazy conservative, I'm not. And I was homeless for a short period of time, so I think I know what I'm talking about.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

I really hope that they don't change that park too much. I love how it is all different levels. I eat my lunch there occasionally and have never had any problems which couldn't be resolved by asking the offending person to leave me alone.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

That's surprising, but I also have to say I probably wouldn't go to a place if I had to ask someone to leave me alone every time either. or even most of the times.

Jamie Pitts

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

The design of a place affects how it is used. And it is obvious that this park's design does not encourage the best use of the space. It is also an extremely small space. The park should be re-built according to principles that are now well-known: a layout that encourages foot traffic flow, children activities, and being seen. And we need more park space downtown. Why is there no plan for this real need? Why not create a large path from Liberty Plaza to a new, larger park next to the Library? There will be tons of foot traffic to whatever activities may be happening in either park, whether cultural, people eating and conversing, food stands, ice skating, or children playing on a playground. And yes, there will be the homeless people, addicts, and other so-called rejects of society around, as there always are in our public space. This reality is no reason to not build a park for the community that lives, works, and plays downtown. Adding more park brings more people, more space, more flow, in order to create a balance in the public space. So do us right, City of Ann Arbor, fix one and build another! We all know that downtown is concentrating and developing... up. There will be many more people living there. And people need park space in order to live in a city. Every civilized city has substantial park space among its buildings, as anyone who has travelled to great places knows. And when they are done right, the positive impact is amazing to see. Are the citizens and leaders of Ann Arbor going to continue to be in denial about what we need to do next?

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

"There will be tons of foot traffic to whatever activities may be happening in either park, whether cultural, people eating and conversing, food stands, ice skating, or children playing on a playground. " Or people drinking, throwing coins at each other, and threatening each other with knives, as the case may be.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

I think I sat at Liberty park once back in the mid-90s. That was the last time. I pass by it frequently, 3x a week perhaps, but I have never felt that it was a place I would feel at peace, comfortable and safe. And I'm no wuss... I just don't want to sit in an environment that is so welcoming to people who abuse the park with their loud cussing, the smell, ... for a downtown location, it's too bad it's not crowded with students and business type people. That's more my crowd.

Al Feldt

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

"Eyes on the Street, " said Jane Jacobs in 1955, make people behave reasonably because they know they are likely to be seen and stopped or at least reported when they don't. In no way is their privacy invaded or their rights taken away since there is no "right: to privacy in a public place and there is no "right" to bother or threaten other people. When Jacobs argued this in the 50's it was hard to accomplish without major changes in city structure. NOw it can be done for a few thousand dollars with cheap TV cameras and one or two digital display boards mounted on nearby buildings or poles. Liberty Plaza is a gem when people behave quietly there and if everyone going there knew they were on camera all but a few ham actors would be careful not to embarrass themselves or risk public censure or arrest. So why not invest a few thousand dollars in equipment and give it a try. Muc cheaper than all the other suggestions made so far and if it does not work, the equipment is still retrievable.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 6:02 a.m.

"the equipment is still retrievable" -- if it's not vandalized or stolen. Hah! Dream on, Mr. Feldt. Despite that you're correct in saying the vagrants have no right to do as they do - THEY assert those "rights" daily, and they do it with conviction and vigor. I also don't understand how anyone can claim that surveillance cameras are effective deterrents when literally hundreds of surveillance videos show crimes being committed (with police arriving only later -and then they sit around reviewing the videos before taking action). Besides, the whole city would have to be blanketed with video cameras - otherwise the miscreants have only to move out of camera range to do what they do.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

Thanks for the great discussion on this story, there's been a lot of great points raised. I was particularly struck by leaguebus' comment about the city hiring private security firms to be in the area during warmer months. Would this be a good way to make people feel more comfortable when they come to the area, given the personnel restrictions the AAPD has? Would this be a good expense if it made residents feel safer coming into the Liberty Street area?

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

???????? solution:


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:48 a.m.

Eh, I once worked for a high end security company as a supervisor: they actually hire the kind of people we're trying to get rid of. As for 'judgement' of such personnel, let's just say it's less than you obviously think it is. And as for authority - forget it - most security personnel you find have no authority other than to call for police assistance - which is what WE are supposed to do for ourselves in the first place. Oh, and should I mention: having a private security "officer" costs money - on a per-hour basis. Calling for police action / protection: is always to some degree just paying someone else to take care of problems we just don't want to solve ourselves. Calling for private security companies to do this is more like "civil suicide." The city has unintentionally created this problem by providing the right environment for parasitic vagrants and addicts. Even putting up a few signs telling these people they are unwelcome and are subject to arrest under existing laws & ordinances would be better than the city hiring fake cops to do what we can do ourselves (which is to tell every vagrant who approaches us to leave town). If you're going to be "struck" by something - try to be sure it's not a stupid idea or a truck. ;-)


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

Security guards sounds a little too much like privatizing the police and we don't ever want to do that. My other thought is, since "Big Brother" already has cameras all over the place, why not a couple here? Maybe with a number posted that you could send a text message to in order to give the watcher a heads-up. Everybody seems to love texting so much, and everybody does it so the bad guys won't know who might be tattling on them or when. Then the police could show up when needed.

Stephen Landes

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

The mayor is up to his usual tricks: making the city less desirable in the guise of "doing something" to improve safety. We certainly have problems with safety and public perceptions of Liberty Plaza, so what we get is a plan to fill it in and make it just like everything else. I strongly suggest that the parks people take a little trip to Grand Rapids and look at the park they have along the river. That park is clean, inviting, and beautiful. It has a wonderful fountain (nothing like the atrocity in front of city hall) that includes sheltered, out of sight, seating. The park is clean, it is well maintained, and I felt perfectly safe walking through it at 9:00 PM. The people in Grand Rapids are not different from Ann Arborites -- not better, smarter, cleaner, or whatever. They have, however, figured out how to have a beautiful downtown with real parks and fountains and play spaces for families. Get out there and figure out what they do and learn something ! The smartest people are the ones who know how to seek out the best ideas and put them to work for themselves. I am tired of the mayor, council, and DDA with their short-sighted, narrow view of what is possible when in reality we have unlimited opportunity if we do things right the first time.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

You know what is so outlandish !These are people of our community and you are scared of them? We have a defectiveness in mental health, Delonis Center has short comings Peace neighborhood could use your help Ozone house could use your help Safe house could use your help . Instead of complaining have you ever taken a moment to talk to our people. They are our people. Everyone has a story whether a bogus land contract, the court system failed they are our people they are children of god .We all make mistakes and unleash your own skeletons in your closets . Stop and acknowledged and speak. Do not judge a book by its cover. That is the sanity of Ann Arbor we created all this destruction in people lives for Art at $750,000. They have no identification because its been stolen sold and crimes committed not by our people but a ring operating creating crimes and identity theft.. We have all kinds of our people we need to care for . Everyone with Money they same goes for Detroit donate it to the homeless. My sister lives in Kansas they do not have homeless people they have a program in case you are in need. When my friends or family come to town it looks dirty it looks unwelcoming .Open your hearts your pocketbooks and help all the organization that took a hit from mistakes of the Mayor and stop complaining. Do lawyers lie yes , do people with money feel privileged to lie ? Yes. Are slumlords allowed to bully tenants? Yes So open the pocketbooks put away your attitudes and let's help our people that have lost all in our community . No one is any better then anyone! We all are God's children that have suffered enough at the hands of Ann Arbor .

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:33 a.m.

Forget Kansas, we're talking about A2.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

I think it's false to say that "these are people of our community," unless you're talking about the Spaceship Earth. As has been pointed out many times in past articles about panhandlers and homeless, many of these people come here to summer from other locales, or come here to attempt to take advantage of the human services from far away. I realize that a big part of our population is students, who are also not temprary, and can be considered part of the community, but when we're talking about a rest stop for freeway ramp sign holders and panhandlers who follow news of soft touch towns or better weather, and their constant occupation of the public park, then no, they are not actually members of our community. Just like no one's a member of the community at an airport smoking lounge.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:38 p.m.

You think that they don't have homeless people in Kansas? LOL.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:57 p.m.

Actually, not frightened at all, just grossed out. Big difference.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:03 p.m.

Addressing crime in the park is one thing. However, calling for people to be "rounded up" becuase they are poor, or homeless is completely uneccetpable... So is assuming that because one homeless person, or poor person has commited a crime, that all homeless/poor people are guilty of said crime.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

also, recognize that ppl congregate where they are treated well enough.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:44 p.m.

I share your sense of humanity and justice. But don't you think that those misusing our public spaces are doing so because they've gotten the word from other "homeless people"? Word has gotten around that Ann Arbor is "the right place for us" because (1) Ann Arbor tolerates it, (2) because we continue to think it's up to others to solve the problem and of course (3) because THEY know there's a lot of money and other resources available to THEM, either through charity or through panhandling and theft. Besides, no one is calling for roundups of homeless people, what's being called for is the driving out of those who've taken "ownership" of our public spaces in Ann Arbor. What is unacceptable is: a small (scruffy) minority treating legitimate park users and passers by as if we owe these people something. If we do owe them something: it might be expanding a program which gives the legitimately homeless a safe place to stay for a time. It's NOT giving them whatever public space they choose as a base of operations for panhandling, crimes and related misbehaviors. And I don't think anyone has argued that "one homeless person" committing a crime justifies locking up every homeless person. That's exaggeration: MANY MORE than one are creating this problem which has lasted for years.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

I think all that's needed is a job recruiter placed there. That will empty it out, amd fast.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:06 a.m.

what ??? and compete agianst lowe's, home depot and walmart? tsk-tsk.... /sarcasm

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

Atticus - it just so happens that those are not the same homeless people who congregate by the dozen in Liberty Plaza to engage in public drinking and drug use, aggressive and threatening panhandling, and sexual harassment of every young woman that walks by.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Actually, you would be suprised at how many people are homeless because they have tried to find a job, but can not. As a matter of fact, there are many working poor who are on the verge of homelessness, who could find themselves homeless due to an unexpected car repair, or unforseen medical emergancy.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Liberty Plaza has a number of problems that I will attempt to outline: 1. Geography: The park is laid out and follows a tier system whereby a paved walking path will take a person from the top all the way down towards the library parking lot. This means that quite a few illegal activities go on without notice. In addition, all of the nooks provide the welcomed privacy for the homeless and offer a bit of refuge. 2. In all my time as an A2 resident I have NEVER seen a Police presence in the park. NEVER. It is as if the city has declared this park a dumping ground for the homeless and mentally ill and walked away. Shameful. When I have folks in from out of town, I avoid the area despite the fact that Mani's across the street is one of my favorite restaurants. I do this because I'm sick and tired of being asked for money.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Get rid of the bums that infest it.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

It makes sense to "open up" the park by having it at grade level and then, even though its a small park, having a diagonal sidewalk with pavers through it from Liberty St. to Division. This would provide 2 "mini" parks and would eliminate the closed in feeling in the present park.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:35 a.m.

Great, to address a problem involving the unwelcome and illegal presence of a small group of parasites, you want to re-build Liberty Plaza. This might be more agreeable if you were a wealthy philanthropist willing to pay for that work... but you're not.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

This might be as simple as, "increase the lighting and make every part of the park visible from the sidewalk." The darkness and semi-privacy is what makes it appealing to the nasty ones.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 5:33 a.m.

Got some bad news for ya: some of those vagrants actually leave Liberty Plaza and follow people they spot as "marks" - and this goes on regardless of the time of day. Generally, you can encounter vagrants in several downtown areas - they actually talk to each other about the best places to "work" for handouts. Increasing lighting - is also increasing cost and light pollution - and makes little difference except to make it easier on the eyes of the vagrants.

Roy Munson

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

The entire city and population is way too tolerant. And the criminals and bums take advantage of you for it. Your problem is very simple.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Why not hire security guards to be in the park during the warm months? A redesign makes no sense if it's just to keep watch on the baddies. Give the watchers a direct line to the PD and if they see someone drinking or using drugs, call for assistance and arrest the person. Then ban them from the park. A list of names and faces of banned people will make the scofflaws move someplace else to spend their time.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

The city already employs a number of peace officers.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Remind me again why anyone thinks it's a good idea to build a park next to the library/bus station/liquor store? Anything you'd enjoy there you can already enjoy at Liberty Square


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

And the same thing will happen if you put a park over the underground parking structure on 5th


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

Ex-police chief Carl Ent was quoted in the AA News that he was not going to tolerate drug dealing and other illegal activities to occur within blocks of city hall. He ordered patrols through the park and made a few arrests and the problem was solved. The current administration is ok with drug dealing, public intoxication and panhandeling. If they weren't the problem would be fixed. It's that simple.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

How is this a "park" anyway? According to Merriam-Webster, a park is: 1) a : an enclosed piece of ground stocked with game and held by royal prescription or grant - NOPE b : a tract of land that often includes lawns, woodland, and pasture attached to a country house and is used as a game preserve and for recreation - NOPE 2) a : a piece of ground in or near a city or town kept for ornament and recreation - POSSIBLY b : an area maintained in its natural state as a public property - NOPE 3) a : a space occupied by military vehicles, materials, or animals - I'm not going there... b : parking lot - NOPE 4) : an enclosed arena or stadium used especially for ball games - NOPE 5) : an area designed for a specified type of use (as industrial, commercial, or residential use) - NOPE

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

2 sounds about right, especially if you call it a pocket park. sounds like a quibble anyhow.

Jack Campbell

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:50 p.m.

A2 has become bum-mecca. It's time to take a stance against these degenerates and ban panhandling! Don't redesign the park, HIRE MORE POLICE!

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

eassssssssssssy there jack ... or did i miss the /sarcasm switch having been turned on?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

*edit - - "redesign"


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

hmm...i'd say both is in order (resign the park and police patrolling should do the trick).

Ron Granger

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Where are the police on bikes? Why don't we have police bike patrols in A2? We could save a lot of money by forcing the police out of hiding in their cars and out into the public. The only time I've ever seen cops on bikes is at night, patrolling University parties.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

Well, yes, that is where the topless co-eds are to be found....

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

It's important to note, that displacing people from this park will NOT solve the issue of homelessness. As a matter of fact, it will lead to more people sitting /hanging out on public sidewalks in front of businesses. In all actuallity, this situation stems from the practice of the UofM displacing people from the Diag (via a strict 'no tresspass' policy). So I guess people have to ask themselves; Would we rather have the homeless hanging out at a park? Or would we rather have them hanging out in front of businesses and on public sidewalks? Or would we rather lock up poor people, throw away the key, and then complain that we are spend $40,000/year to house these people in jail?

Ypsi Russell

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:49 p.m.

We should rescue this park by building the new deluxe library somewhere out of the vagrants' reach, then retrofitting the old library as a "warming center" where they can celebrate their camaraderie 24×7 (under lock and key).


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Perhaps I am not as sensitive to this issue as you. I agree that you cannot jail the poor but I am seeing calls for enforcement against illegal activities (drugs) as well as "matriculating" those with mental problems into "the system." I did not see calls for jailing people just for being homeless. Even the loitering statute mentioned previously has a built in "out" before arrest can occur. Perhaps there is a slippery slope argument to be made but everything I saw was couched in the present and as I stated that is not the case today.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

riceburner, I hear alot of people on this thread calling for policies that would in fact lead to more of these people being lodged in jail.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:02 p.m.

This is the second mention of jailing the homeless for extended periods. Please provide some proof that this is actually happening here in Washtenaw County. I been on jail tours at both the Justice Center and with Washtenaw County Jail on Hogback. At neither location, with the intake policies in place was holding low level offenders for extended periods a matter of course. As a matter of fact what is part of the intake policy is to extensively interview, categorize and then release this type of offender. Usually with referrals to available services. I'm sure Chief Seto, Sherriff Clayton or Undersheriff Ptaszek would be happy to clarify.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

"When you have people drinking, doing drugs, defecating and urinating near buildings or harassing someone trying to eat lunch, it's a detriment to the area," he added. That says it all. Until A2 makes panhandling illegal, the homeless problem will only increase. Put a cop in the park and things will change. Downtown is overrun with homeless, and this park is a hangout. The downtown library wants a new building but has no plans to deal with the homeless problem in the library, where they hang out all day and harass patrons inside and outside the building. Unless A2 takes a tougher stand on the vagrants, this park along with the rest of the downtown will continue to be a hangout for panhandlers and aggressive homeless vagrants.


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 4:26 a.m.

I dont think that Ann Arbor is being ran by homeless people i just think that most people who arent homeless or have to deal with the stuff we have to deal with dont understand. We use parks as hang outs because WE ARE HOMELESS! we have no where to go . We dont have a house or apartment we can just go sit at during the day. We cant even just go to the shelter and sit there because unless you have a bed at the shelter you cant just be there to hang out. I understand that some of them may do bad things but you guys are putting that on the whole homeless community and thats not right and the people that you claim are doing "bad things" like smoking and drinking. Were are they suppose to do that at? Most of the people who are homeless and do smoke and drink have a problem. You guys arent saying anything about helping then yall just want to get the homeless out of ann arbor and thats not right. If you guys really wanna fix things maybe you should go about it another way then saying kick the homeless out of ann arbor.

Basic Bob

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:50 a.m.

I liked it better when the police rounded them up and drove them to the edge of town.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:12 p.m.

Commercial activity can be regulated. E.g., "Give me a dollar to stop following you and yelling at you."

Stupid Hick

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

"That says it all. Until A2 makes panhandling illegal" Why just treat the symptom? Why not go straight to the cause, and make being poor illegal?

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

reasonable restrictions apply to things like 'shouting "FIRE!" in a packed movie theatre'. They do not apply to people saying something that might offend your sensibilities.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

But the 1st Amendment is not absolute, isn't that right? It is subject to reasonable restrictions is it not?

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Panhandling is a free speach issue. If you cant stand the thought of having to listen to another person speak in public, then you should probably just stay in your house...


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

another homeless issue. some time we will walk up and see we do have a problem with homeless. when you have a problem you address it. need to put in some ordnance that address this. for those whom disagree with me go ahead and do reply. i am just saying problems should be addressed no matter whom it affects.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:26 p.m.

Always be skeptical when panhandlers and "homeless" people claim they are Vietnam vets or otherwise former military. Actual veterans have lots of help available through the VA and other agencies. The people swilling wine and puffling a joint could be getting treatment and counseling through the VA if they were actually interested. Unfortunately, many of these folks merely are anxious to facilitate their next buzz. Please don't enable these people with sympathy and handouts. They need to get it together.

Richard Carter

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:58 p.m.

One bit of advice -- educate yourself as to where free food is available for the homeless. When they ask for a handout, point them there.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

I've heard that as many as 1-3 homeless men are veterans. So please save your judgement. because your assumptions are doing a tremendous disservice to the people who served our country.

god's hammer

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:10 p.m.

Maybe if the Police would get out of their cars giving speeding tickets and do some foot patrols like in othere cities like Chicago things would be different. Protect and serve or make $ for the city???


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:50 a.m. Chicago...that is what all the development is for!! to turn our wonderful City into a mini Chicago or NYC with all the high-rise buildings, which in a few years will become really "nasty" run-down places...and then we will have all the "atmosphere" of Chicago or NYC for all the "immigrants" to AA form those cities.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:08 p.m.

the plan is to develope and urbanize Ann Arbor....more transport in and out/apartment buildings going up everywhere/taxes and cost of everything rising...there will naturally be more activity around the edges as well. Never thought you'd have to worry about this stuff in AA: not sure that moving away from a "town" atmosphere to a city scape is such a wise vision. Risk is achieving a" dead" zone right down in the core due to problems that come and go but really have no solution and over time get worse,but people slowly get used to the whole thing and develope ways of closing their eyes to it all or avoid it.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

Make some changes: 1. fill in most or all of the lower level, and change landscaping to eliminate areas with little or no visibility, while providing better design for performance space 2. put in a small playground to attract families, preschools 3. more police presence 4. license a few food carts to be there and open into the evening hours (like in Portland) to increase foot traffic I'm sure there are a number of other relatively simple changes that would generate an improved recreational and business climate in this location


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:55 p.m.

DeeDee - - some great ideas!


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

Food carts! Great idea! Enforce the loitering laws and make the place more appealing to foot traffic.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

good suggestions, DeeDee, finally a positive look at what can be accomplished by a few simple changes


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

FInally a discussion on this subject. I'd like to point readers to Ann Arbor's municipal code: -- 9:65. - Loitering. (1) No person shall loiter on a public street, sidewalk or the premises of a public building under circumstances that warrant alarm for the safety or health of any person or property in the vicinity. (2) The following are circumstances which may be considered in determining whether alarm is warranted: (a) The person is 1 of a group of people threatening, making threatening gestures at or otherwise menacing persons in the area. (b) The person appears to be illegally consuming or using or concealing illegal consumption or use of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances. (c) The person is 1 of a group which is blocking the free passage of pedestrian or vehicle traffic on a street or sidewalk. (3) Prior to arrest for an offense under this section, a police officer shall afford the person an opportunity to dispel any alarm which would otherwise be warranted by requesting such person to identify himself and explaining his presence and conduct or by requesting him to leave the area. -- The daily activities of the individuals who regularly loiter in and about Liberty Plaza fall under these laws. It's time that the city of Ann Arbor step in enforce these loitering laws.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 12:52 a.m.

lottttttttttts of weasel words up there ... inlcuding but not limited to: "... requesting such person to identify himself and explaining his presence and conduct or by requesting him to leave the area." howze 'bout carbon-copying this? ... know fuss; know muss (intended)


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

Plenty of laws on the books ... problem, they are not enforced. Until A2 voters make substantial changes in City Hall, you are not likely to see the vagrant laws enforced. The A2 residents have the power to make changes for the better. They just seem to lack the desire for some reason.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

The nation has hundreds of thousands of homeless people always being asked to move along and for them its a constant struggle to find a place to just sit down. We do offer food and shelter here and are a magnet, but do we suddenly crack down? The jail would be full at our expense, but more might head south than usual. This situation will not go away soon as most are substance abusers and not employable. Many are Vietnam vets and as the current vets get older many will be homeless too. We are a post-industrial society with no work and no place to go for much of our population.

Basic Bob

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:48 a.m.

Post-industrial? You make it sound like "Escape from NY"

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

A person has a right to be left alone. This goes for everyone. The thought of having strangers come to me and shake my hand and stuff is enough to keep me away from there. I don't bug you. You don't bug me. Sounds fair, and is a basic American right.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:25 p.m.

Who are these people who have trouble eating lunch in this park? I don't go down there every day but often in the summertime, I like to grab some takeout and sit in the park by myself. I have never been harassed there even once. I have had people in the park politely ask me questions and sometimes, because they are mentally ill, the questions don't make a lot of a sense. But nothing scary or anything like that.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

I really wouldn't care if they hung out there if they would just leave people ALONE. It's the harassment and substance abuse that are the problems. If they were taking a load off there and playing checkers, fine. But when people can't walk through there, much less sit down and enjoy their lunch, without being yelled at/grabbed/approached, then it is a problem that needs to be dealt with appropriately.

Hot Sam

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

We get what we tolerate...


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Isn't this where the "OCCUPY CROWD" hang out? ""When you have people drinking, doing drugs, defecating and urinating near buildings or harassing someone trying to eat lunch, it's a detriment to the area," We also have Homeless shelters & Camp Take Notice, why are the Homeless hanging around here?


Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 4:19 a.m.

People CANT stay at the shelter during the day unless they have a bed their and most of the homeless community is out on the streets and dont have a bed at the shelter. They just go to the park and basically hang out there because where else are they going to go. They have no where else to go. I dont understand why people are making a big deal about them being there.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 6:18 a.m.

1. No, this isn't where the members of the "Occupy" movement hang out. They prefer showing up at places which make it uncomfortable for those they find "too big to defy" and then only until they've made their point. Besides, very few of those people are found panhandling or doing anything that would alienate public support. Political - yes - but vagrancy, no. 2. It's not necessarily "homeless" people who create such problems: some panhandlers actually have campers they drive around to "favorite cities." I've talked to some of these guys - they are IN BUSINESS and their business is scavenging off of the civilization we've been building for 100s of years.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Camp Take Notice residents were evicted earlier this summer.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:56 p.m.

"Jacob Dorsten estimated he's hung out in Liberty Plaza 20 to 25 times during his time in Ann Arbor. He came to the city from Detroit because Ann Arbor was the closest place with a homeless shelter and provided him with safety, he said." " A lot of transient people come because it's a college town and it's safe and that's why I came here."" Mayor and council, in the vernacular, this would be considered a "clue".

Stupid Hick

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

Right, what we need to do is make Ann Arbor worse than Detroit. If Ann Arbor were less safe, maybe the homeless would prefer to stay in Detroit.

Silly Sally

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:54 p.m.

This problem will be getting much worse since the DDA and the Mayor want to increase the amount of low income housing, attracting a certain "element" or class of people who live on the margins. THis affects our schools, neighborhoods, (except where the mayor lives) ,and makes Ann Arbor a less attractive place to live.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

I'll go on record and say that I also know people in low income housing, and I also understand what Sally's saying. I also wish I had the TV that I've seen several low-income housing people have. Or Hot Tub. Or exercise equipment. But that's a whole 'nother gripe.

Angry Moderate

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

WIY - did you even read the article? It's almost entirely about a raging alcoholic who would rather hang out in our public parks than get treatment

Woman in Ypsilanti

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Really? Is this the answer? Let's keep the riff-raff out? I find that attitude to be a little bit disturbing especially knowing how many of our homeless population are suffering from untreated mental illnesses. How about if we embrace our fellow man and see what we can do to help them out?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:53 p.m.

Yes kk, I know several people who live in low income housing. And I would speak the same way as Silly Sally.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

Do you actually know people who live in low income housing? If you did, you would not speak the way you do.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

In what why would creating housing for the poor create more homeless people?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

"Hieftje sees a potential redesign of the park as one way to limit illegal activities in Liberty Plaza. " Two words: bike path.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I think @Bernie has it. You could even do a topiary job on the shrubs in the park and it will look just like Tomorrowland.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

Monorail station.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

The key is for a police presence to prevent problems as opposed to responding to them AFTER they have occured.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:31 a.m.

But we don't have enough police to monitor the park. Our "great" (choke, choke) Mayor has reduced their numbers and budget so much there is no money for even the minimum police for our "fair" city!

Real Life

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

It's simple. Put up a small roofed booth with a Crucifix on top. Turn over the property to a Church, and no one will be there, except for Christmas and Easter.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

"However, with the new underground Library Lane parking structure, which opened on Fifth Avenue nearby this summer, more people will walk through Liberty Plaza to get to the Liberty Street and the State Street area, Hieftje said." Wow Mayor, nice Hail Mary to justify another of your controversial projects! " Hieftje pointed toward more police on bicycles and more foot patrols in 2012 as proof — and assured residents the park is an area the department emphasizes to its patrol officers." wait what?!?!? foot and bicycle patrols?? where? in his imagination cuz didn't he force those services to be cut?? Wow talk about out of touch!


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

No,not out of touch! He believes that the public ( you and me) are not smart enough to know the difference, and he can say whatever he wants you to believe, be the truth or not, and you will believe his every word!!! It's called blind faith...just do and follow what he says.....and the way 2/3's of AA votes are cast , most people just vote for whatever he says or does!!! They don't think for themselves!!


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:59 p.m.

Good point on Garage Mahal plug. People are going to park there and walk to State St.? Sure they are.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

"Hey look! It's a police officer riding a bike downtown. And over there! It's a police officer walking a beat!" said no one ever.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.



Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Yeah, let's take our undermanned police force and use them to babysit the downtown park. Or maybe just rebuilt the park entirely so that it's easier to monitor. The heck with the other 99.9999% of the city. We have to keep the downtown looking sweet for the tourists you know! Otherwise we might not make the next "top 10" list.

Silly Sally

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

A beat cop that makes this park one of his stops as well as other parts of the downtown area is effective. Rebuilding the park will cost a lot and still not solve anthing


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Sitting at the light on Division in mid afternoon, I look to my left to survey the scene. Nope. I still wouldn't walk through that park with my family.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

Quit feeling sorry for and enabling these "homeless" people. Most, as illustrated in the story, are substance abusers not wishing "treatment". One reason cities have police is to keep the streets and municipal areas safe and available for normal, law abiding citizens. Get tough with these unashamed jokers and lets retake the city.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

You're not doing them any favors by giving money directly to them, as opposed to a shelter or soup kitchen.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Actually Atticus, they do not have the right to be there 'the same as you and me' because I am not a homeless person drinking, getting high, sleeping, pooping, etc. in a public space. Refer to the city's loitering code. GoNavy posted it below.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Davidian, have the homeless been doing these things on your porch? if so, my advice would be to call the police. Also, these people are entitled to use the park, just the same as you or me. They are not entitled to use the bathroom there. However, if people are defacating there, we should deal with that on an individualized basis, and not assume that every person there is guikty of that crime.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

Atticus - I would love to see a homeless person drink and defecate on your front porch. Somehow I doubt that your attitude would be "deal with it"

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:06 p.m.

I've lived in this city for over 30 years, and the homeless have been here long before that. They are a part of this city, just as I am a part of this city. Deal with it, or move to someplace like Dexter, or Saline if you dont like the people of our city.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

My last visit to liberty plaza has been about five years. Sitting on a bench eat lunch, along came a nasty I would say was homeless male Dirty, smelled just to say me if I had a square. I did not know what he was asking for So I told him "no" Later in life I find out he was asking for a cigarette. Now I did smoke over 22 years ago and quit, but never called a cigarette a square in my time. So I will never be back there again, until I know it's really cleaned up.

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:05 p.m.

Last summer you were complicit in allowing people to camp there illegally. Why the change? Never mind, I know the answer.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:57 a.m.

Back when this plaza was build, and the Pantree Restaurant was there, it was an amazing place. Now I wouldn't feel comfortable going there. Perhaps if a restaurant of any kind, even a fast food place or sport bar went in there, it would generate a different group of people. It would be nice to drive by and see something other than what you see a lot of the time.

Jon Saalberg

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

I encourage the lofty voice of Ann Arbor to see "Detropia" so you can all get a dose of reality, and see a city that is suffering real problems. If Liberty Square and occasional issues in the parks are our worst problems, our city is doing very well - and as one who lives near and walks through West Park several times a week, I have not seen any regular criminal activity in that park - in fact, the last time I walked through the park, a few days ago, the playground was full of parents and kids.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

Jon, try walking through after 10pm


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Just because Detroit has serious issues doens't mean that we should turn a blind eye to what is happening in Liberty Square.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

Have you walked through West Park at night recently?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

I'd kind of prefer not to turn a blind eye until it IS worse, though. I don't think saying "well, at least we're not Detroit" is a good approach. That's probably how New Haven got the way it is.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

I cant remember the last time I saw police on foot or bikes near downtown, and we're out and about a LOT. The mayor will have no issues spending a few million "fixing" the park by filling it in etc, but wont spend a dime hiring more police and fire...duh...


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Just saw him recently at Grizzly Peak, can't get a good view of Liberty Plaza from there though.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 4:41 p.m.

i havent seen the mayor eating out downtown in a long time...


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

Ann Arbor should be dubbed "City Of Enablers"


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:29 a.m.

AA is known for having high levels of tolerance and understanding. Maybe, just maybe this is the city we have created by our tolerance of gray and deviant behavior. Police action alone will not solve this problem. As our city slides down the hill caring more about art than personal safety, we will see more of this type of problem. I have been blasted for my predictions of this type of problem growing in AA along with theft, home invasions, etc. Until the AA citizens wake up and quit being apathetic to the true needs of our city, we, collectively, will not be able to solve this and related issues. Much to think about..... Go figure!


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 7:15 p.m.

You nailed it Goober, but I do not think the Ann Arbor voters will care or get involved. As we know, they have a habit and long history of apathy. Too bad they do not learn from the UM college students who take up an issue towards a changing future.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:07 p.m.

Hey Goober - Please define "gray and deviant behavior"...

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

This is a huge college town. We have had homeless in this city even long before we had a homeless shelter. The only difference now, is that the media is sensationalizing the issue, on behalf of the DDA, in an attempt to make you believe that your life is somehow in danger.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

Oh yeah, waste a bit more money. If your going to redesign the park for atheistic reasons, fine, but if this is merely for policing then use the money to hire an officer or two. With the new library lot and increased foot traffic, this seems warranted. Last thing criminals and vagrants wants is a hassle with "The Man", enough consistent presence and arrests will deliver the message and they will move on to some where else convenient to do there deeds. To me, the city seems to take a blind eye to what goes on in Liberty Plaza. The occupy movement was a good example of that. Use the money for consistent long term policing and the issue will go away (or at least move) and make that area and the new garage much more friendly to the foot traffic they want in that area. Simply redesigning the park doesn't address any criminal element that could be hanging out unless they want to turn the area into a flat piece of grass (And then there are plenty of buildings to duck behind). The issue is the wrong group just hanging out, your going to have that with any park downtown unless properly policed.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

The mayor does turn a blind eye to the problem, yet then he wants to spend tens of thousands, oops, hundreds of thousands to redo a perfectly fine park. He needs to instead address the fact that his showcase Deloines Center is too small , turns peopel away, and since Camp Take Notice was shut down, these former residents need somewhere to go. If I have one beer at Arbor Brewing, I can legally drive, and most likely still legally fly an airplane. but if I were to show up at teh Deloinis Center, I would be turned away as "drunk". This is why so many homeless do not use it as well as it is too small. When the choice is a sidewalk, or this park, is it anmy wonder why this park is so popular?

Bob W

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:19 a.m.

Why not install cameras? It's public space.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

The important thing would be that their presence is advertized, so that the deter problems before they occur.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:46 p.m.

@craigjjis: apparently cameras have been installed in Nickels Arcade with good results (i.e. reduction in criminal activity). Might be a good idea for LP.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

I wonder if cameras would make much difference. There is no one to monitor them, so there is no value to prevent crimes. It would be helpful in providing evidence of crimes that have already taken place. I suppose there is some deterrent value, but am not sure if it would be significant. Oh, who pays for the cameras?

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:59 a.m.

As a downtown resident for the past 12 years, I have noticed over time a large increase in problems and that other parks downtown such as West Park now have major problems with gangs and drug dealing. Again last night I discussed with my wife her concerns that she did not feel safe taking our children to any of the parks downtown anymore. This is a serious problem which has a negative impact on the quality of life for downtown residents that must be addressed by the police and our city leaders.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

General shadiness...yes. Drug dealing, quite probably. Gangs? Give me a break. A group of 2 or more non-white people gathered in a public place does not constitute a gang.

Jim Osborn

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Police Chief Seto is on the right track with increased patrols. During the 1984 Olympics in LA, the worst neighborhoods were just fine for walking around during nighttime. This was due to the police presence. I was there, and it worked. Mayor Hieftje and the city council are so wrong to cut the police and fire, as this is a core city function, keeping parks safe for families to enjoy. Mayor Hieftje has big, expensive dreams that will be financed by further police cuts when if laws were enforced, there would be no problem and this article would not be written. It is nice of First Martin to clean up after these vagrants. What does the mayor want, First Martin to pay for private security, too?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

How long have our city leaders been in office?


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:59 a.m.

Hats off to First Martin for maintaining the place, that's a nice gesture to taxpayers. With the situation at Liberty Plaza, I can't believe that anyone thinks a park on top of the library lot is a good idea.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Sep 29, 2012 : 12:37 a.m.

but .. they;d be next to the library! food for thought.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Exactly. Another city park on top of the library parking lot would be another park for vagrants. There isn't any foot traffic in that area other than vagrants.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

I really don't see anyone hiding anything in there; the park being sunken is not the problem. And I don't see drunk homeless people smiling and shaking hands with residents or other homeless people as check in the PRO column of this park. A "sense of community among the people who frequent the park" is also a little deceptive; the "community" is typically vagrants sleeping, drinking, or raucously verbally accosting passerby, especially women, and laughing loudly about it. Part of the problem is this: "Despite the fact that he mentioned the social services in Ann Arbor as a reason for coming here, he hasn't sought treatment for his alcoholism yet." It's well known by now that Ann Arbor is known far and wide as a mecca for panhandling. No need to actually use assistance to become self reliant; too many soft touches walking around. Oh, and word missing: "...began five years ago when was living ..."

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 3:31 p.m.

I've fixed the missing word, thank you.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Of course you don't see them...they're "hidden"...


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 12:17 p.m.

I am disappointed that this profiles a 'user' of the park but lacks a voice from some of the nearby residents. I know a woman that has to go completely out of her way to avoid that park because she was so harassed - including being touched.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:40 a.m.

With the powers to be in OZ openly embracing all manner of lunacy what do they expect.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:39 a.m.

If illegal activity is occurring at the plaza, I do believe they should be arrested.


Thu, Sep 27, 2012 : 10:24 a.m.

If the city put a strong police presence there for a period, then sporatically over a period of time, this would not be an issue. Way too tolerant of what goes on there.


Fri, Sep 28, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Putting up video cameras, and letting it be known that the park is being video taped, would be helpful.