Friday, October 5, 2007

A discouraging word

Yesterday, the Planning Department forwarded a comment to me that they had received on-line pertaining to a zoning request. It came from a property owner who opposes a special permit application for a day care proposed near 12th and D Streets:

"I do not believe we should increase the size of facilities for young children inthis nieborhood until there is a commitment to reduce crime and prostitution andother unwanted elements in this area.We spent the time to have a rec center down here so the teenagers can be and learn trades that are not valuable to our community.

More efforts should be placed in making this area safe and should not encourage additional children until a plan is in place and action has been taken to bring this area of wide streets and close proximity to downtown back to a normal and respectable part of this community.

I would request that you pass this on to the city council and chief of police. I have been an owner in this area for over 16 years and have not been impressed with public works or our law enforcement in caring for this area as it were an important part of our great inner city that leads to downtown and the Capitol.

Thank you for the time you have spent in reading and forwarding this response from a concerned citizen and taxpayer."

Given the huge effort that the Southwest Team has devoted to this area, this message was a bit discouraging. I think our Southwest Team officers have been incredibly devoted to the neighborhood, and I've blogged about it before. The neighborhood seems to realize the level of effort and committment, judging from the comments, calls, and letters I've received.

Here's my response:

"The planning department forwarded your remarks on to me, as you requested.I am very discouraged to hear the you feel the police are not doing enough to try to protect this neighborhood from the many social ills that have descended upon it. I assure you that I personally advocate for this neighborhood at every available opportunity with civic groups all over town. I am deeply concerned about the area between 9th and 27th Streets, G and A Streets. We have spent a huge amount of our very limited resources in this area, helped in part by aProject Safe Neighborhoods grant we have leveraged for the past three years. Virtually every week the officers who work this area are putting themselves in grave risk working undercover details to try to drive down prostitution and drug dealing.

Until your remark, I have heard nothing but thanks and praise from the people who actually live in the area, who seem to have both noticed and appreciated the additional efforts we are expending, and seem to recognize the fact that the police alone have little control over many of the social and cultural ills that have collapsed into relatively small areas of our city. There is no area of Lincoln where we have done more undercover work, made more arrests, or worked harder than this neighborhood.

I hope you will remember that it was certainly not the police who allowed the density of this area to increase with lightly-constructed slip in apartment buildings during the 1960's and 1970's, that inevitably reached the end of their lifecycle as quality housing a long time ago. It was not the police department that converted stately single family homes into multi-unit apartment buildings, or allowed buildings to fall into disrepair, trash to accumulate, graffiti to proliferate, home ownership to decrease, poverty to increase, and so forth. We are committed to working with the stakeholders in the neighborhood who are trying to reverse such trends, and we have and will continue to put our lives on the line to do so."

I suspect that the author of the comment operates under the notion that the reason prostitutes, johns, drug addicts, and trouble makers abound is because the police don't arrest them. Nothing is further from the truth, and the problem people generally have lengthy arrest records. The simplistic notion that arrest is the answer to such complex issues often is accompanied by the misconception that the police control such things as conditions of release and sentencing. I don't know what the Public Works Department did or cause them to be lumped in with us.

I noted that the person who sent the comment lives on a golf course, by the way.


Anonymous said...

You'd think that someone that makes enough to afford a few hundred K or more for a primary residence and runs a business would understand the basics of things like planning, zoning, variances, building permits, and other such errata, as well as who actually controls those things.

Cheap rentals are too often like an infection that can rot a neighborhood from the inside out, when the landlords don't pay much attention to who moves in, just so long as they have the rent money. Criminal history checks? Credit history checks? Some of them don't care in the least.

No one wants to buy a home in an area that has a ridiculous number of crime map incident icons - at least not to live in themselves. You don't make the crime, and you really bust your butts trying to fight it. If the solution was easy, we could patent it and retire as trillionaires!

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you and your officers for the efforts being put forth in my neighborhood around 14th & E. I have and continue to see a difference in the stepped up efforts.

Despite some of the negative thoughts by folks in the community, the neighborhood is not that bad and I am happy to reside in this area.

Zen said...

I lived there at 12th and F until last year when serendipity allowed us to buy a home in the older part of College View. When the Rec center was shot at we decided it was time to look elsewhere. My wife and I have three small children (7>4) and until that incident the neighborhood was relatively quiet, diverse (still is), and not that bad of a place to be proximity wise. I appreciated the efforts of the local sub station as well. I don't know that Id put a day care in there, but since it will probably service local children there is probably a need. I wish them luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure your much more eloquent and grammatically correct response was lost on that taxpayer. Money certainly doesn't guarantee an open mind or class.