City Searches for Solution to "River Rats"

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The meeting lasted about an hour, but unfortunately, no concrete solutions came out of it.

Those who attended, say it was just the beginning of what could be a long road toward creating a safe downtown that includes everyone's right to enjoy the Truckee River.

The kids who normally hang out near the Truckee...locals call them "river rats," left their stomping grounds to attend the meeting. They say it was time they defended themselves.

"I don't like labels, they're stupid. People call us 'river rats' or homeless kids. I'm none of those. I just hang out there," said Marci Talcott.

The circle of chairs represented a coming together of people on both sides...the river kids...and the shop owners and citizens who want them removed. Attendees wrote down comments, such as: I am here because...I care about Reno...I'm concerned about public drinking and drug deals...and I want to feel safe, free of intimidation.

"That's their main objective. To intimidate and control people by what they say and their actions," said Downtown resident Ben Reynolds.

Business owners told firsthand accounts of things they'd witnessed in the West Street Plaza.

"I saw a guy beaten to a pulp, just their on the stairs," said one store owner.

And police responded, saying the West Street Plaza is of utmost concern.

"We ran a plain clothes operation a few weeks back and they're smoking marijuana, they're using drugs, they're doing grafitti, spreading trash, there are fights. It was nice to finally see them admit that they're doing these things," said Sgt. Greg Ballew of the Reno Police Department's downtown bicycle team.

The kids who hang out near the river spoke up as well, saying, they're not just kids...but many of them adults, families, and homeless citizens with no place else to go.

"There are some kids that do bad things down there, but if you take them away from the spot they're already doing it, they're going to do it someplace else and it will probably get worse," said Talcott.

They did come up with a few solutions as to what could help solve some of the problems, including starting up a day shift for the Reno Police Department bicycle cops, as well as getting more youth mentoring groups to collaborate efforts toward finding a more constructive environment for the kids who say they have nowhere else to go.

The First United Methodist Church is planning to hold another public meeting in the near future to follow up on concerns and solutions.