Residents near former Lucky Lady Casino concerned about safety

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 9:51 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s been about four months since the Lucky Lady Casino closed in Sioux Falls. At the time, residents raised concerns about safety and alcohol-related behavior and in the months since, some of the residents say they’ve seen some of those issues get worse, including people spending hours at a time on the sidewalks.

Most of the people hanging around the sidewalks in front of an apartment complex on Summit Avenue are said to be homeless and residents say that they are often drinking. Some interactions between residents and these groups have been positive and some have led to altercations.

Some residents want to help these groups, but they also feel like their privacy is invaded and they never know what to expect when they go home. Overall, residents wish that officials could do something about it.

“I should be able to go into my household and feel peace and not feel that I’m going to be verbally attacked one way or the other because of somebody’s being drunk or whatever the case may be,” said one resident who wished to remain anonymous. “All of us have that right.”

The resident doesn’t want to disclose their identity for fear of retaliation by those who congregate on the sidewalk, but also because they sympathize with them and don’t want to hurt the connections they have made.

“At the beginning of the summer, I was real angry with them because that’s what I see every day when I wake up and I was so tired of being angry that I flipped it around and I prayed about it. We all look at the surface and we all like to pass judgment right away. They are still human,” the resident said.

After talking to a few of the sidewalkgoers, the resident found out more about their stories. Some of them have mental health issues and some of them have gone through the foster care system and in this resident’s words, “the system failed them.” There have been times when the group on the sidewalk had done cookouts and this resident contributed, at times in the summer giving water and food out.

The resident said that in an ideal world, people with these issues would seek help, but it just isn’t that simple of a solution.

“I do realize that there are programs out there for people to get help, but you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink,” they explain.

In the three years this resident has been living in the apartments, this is the first time that this issue has popped up. While a correlation cannot be officially proven, most residents said that this started to happen after Lucky Lady Casino closed down.

From early in the morning to late at night, the number of people on the sidewalk can grow from around four or five people to close to twenty people.

The residents have also caught some of these people on the grass instead of the sidewalk, sometimes passed out on the grass. In some spots, it’s visible where people have been stepping on because the grass is dead.

“What concerns me the most is the well-being of the people that are in the area that I live in that have children that go to school or that go to work,” said the resident. “We all get along really well in our apartment building, but it’s the outside of our apartment building that we have concerns. One of the guys works late at night and he was jumped a few weeks ago. He had a knot on his head.”

The problem gets more complicated for police, who can’t do anything to help residents unless they catch the sidewalk-goers doing something illegal. Residents say that they do drink or occasionally threaten them, but it’s not often caught when it happens.

The resident said that they started by contacting Governor Noem’s office who directed them to their state representative. The state representative said that the issue would be better resolved at the city level, so they reached out to city officials. The city directed them to the Sioux Falls Police Department.

“One of the police officers told me I should move. Why should I have to move? If our police officers’ hands are tied because they’re only allowed to do so much, then there needs to be different laws that are passed, not just for my safety, but even for the safety of them, too,” the resident said.

One conversation that this resident was concerned about was with a city official. The city official compared the group on the sidewalk to stray cats because “if you feed them or you give something to them they continue to come back.” They thought that it was a dehumanizing way to talk about the group.

“Certainly the city council has the ability to change city ordinances. the state legislature has the ability to change state laws, but generally overall what we’re looking at is people just gathering in a public space and I don’t know that we can prohibit people from doing that,” said SFPD Public Information Officer, Sam Clemens.

While being on the sidewalks is not a crime, Clemens did recommend that residents call the police when these groups are drinking, being loud, going onto the grass, or anything else that the police can take action on.