Monday, June 7, 2010

Hawkman on EcoVillage Crime Fighting Strategies

Post and photo by the Hawthorne Hawkman, photo changed from original post, to show 3020 6th St N, former home of "The Devil," being demolished.

After three posts about the Hawthorne Huddle last Thursday, including video before any other media, an extensive account of the meeting, and a detailed account of strategies, I'm finally getting around to answering a question or two. At least one reader wanted to know what from the EcoVillage could be replicated in terms of crime fighting and crime prevention strategies. I'm quite certain that these questions could be answered by reading through JNS posts in the summer and fall of 2008. But I'll summarize here.

I also plan on adding some commentary, but want to focus mainly on the EcoVillage. The strategies we used really got cooking in the spring of 2008 after... resident had her home broken into. Just a week or so prior to that happening, we had a meeting at Farview about the EcoVillage with many of our partners from the city, Northside Home Fund, Inspector Mike Martin, Mike Christenson of CPED, and many others I'm sure I'm forgetting. The message to EcoVillage residents then was, "Hang in there; help is on the way."

Bear in mind this was back when the apartment complex of anarchy and its cousin over on 4th Street were still standing. The Devil still owned BOTH his prostitution house and pill house at 3024 and 3020 6th St N respectively. ("Respectively" in this case refers to grammar, not the Devil/Evannor Haymon. I doubt he's EVER done anything worthy of respect.) Phil Kliendl was buying up properties left, right, and center.

Drug dealing and prostitution were rampant, and vacant properties were routinely found open to trespass. In short, the EcoVillage was not a fun place to spend a few minutes, much less to live in.

So our partners at the city came along and told everyone to hang in there and that things would get better, and then right after that, someone's home was broken into. A few weeks later, that same person had her home broken open a second time. This was the lightning rod moment for the EcoVillage, where people from across city departments (and myself included) realized that we couldn't just make these promises, we had to DELIVER, and SOON.

So we got neighbors together and met at the Hawthorne office, along with our partners at the Northside Home Fund and the following city departments: CM Hofstede, CPED, Problem Properties Unit, Regulatory Services, MPD, MFD (if they're no longer inspecting 4+ unit buildings, they may or may not be necessary), and others as needed.

We went down the list of properties and issues and tackled each one individually. Mike Christenson was especially great at keeping everyone on task and making sure there was a clear understanding of who was going to do what. We held each other accountable, and we met every few weeks to update each other on our progress. The amount of change we made in the span of even one summer was nothing short of amazing.

I'll be realistic here though: We got these meetings with all of these people sitting down together in large part because the EcoVillage was a city-designated cluster project. More resources were dedicated to areas of the greatest need. Other non-cluster areas are probably not going to be able to get that same kind of focus.

That's not to say the city and others won't work with non-cluster areas, nor is it to say we can't duplicate much of what we learned.

First off, the most important thing is to have boots on the ground or eyes on the street. Residents need to be calling 911 and 311 almost incessantly. Is there a vantage point, such as someone's attic, that can be used to discreetly watch how, when, and where crime happens? That was crucial to building up a case in the EcoVillage. We also got video footage of drug deals happening from that vantage point.

In these meetings, our residents (and myself) learned which city departments handled which tasks, and we also were taught how to describe what we were seeing to a 911 or 311 operator. Technically, we shouldn't need to know if a particular problem is addressed to Reg Services or the Fire Department if we're just calling 311. But trust me, this sort of thing was incredibly helpful.

The other ingredient that's essential is patience. Even in the EcoVillage where things moved at a pretty rapid clip, things felt like they were taking forever. And we had another major asset: partners such as Project for Pride in Living were acquiring properties and keeping slumlords and drug dealers and such out of the area that way.

Not everything done in the EcoVillage can be photocopied for other areas, but much of it can be. If there is any resident, block club, or neighborhood that would like to discuss this with me further, please don't hesitate to contact me.


Big Bird said...

We need to reinstitute the Metro Gang Taskforce. They're methods may not have been pretty, but the kept a tight lid on crime. Perhaps their will be a federal task force that can accomplish some of the same goals.

Anonymous said...

I dunno that P-Diddy wannabe commenter who was "beat'in off in the back of a van", a few posts ago, might not dig it.

Alice Aswater said...

What if we passed an ordinance prohibiting the posession of more than 10 one dollar bills and more than 2 five dollar bills at one time. As well the prohibition of any sum greater than $50 in cash could be prohibited and would help curb street crime and protect victims of robbery in the city.