Saturday, September 17, 2011

FPAA Block Watch Makes Progress in Its First Few Months

Earlier this month, the Franklin Park Area Association Block Watch met at the East Main Street Police Station to discuss issues and its progress over its first few months. FPN Block Watch meetings are held at 1 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month at the East Main Street Police Station. Susan strictly enforces the one-hour time limit on the meeting.

As earlier reported here, the Block Watch has licensed the lot across Stoddart Avenue from the SACG for a neighborhood beautification project. A large flower bed was created as a friendly gateway to the Stoddart Avenue neighborhood. An annonymous donor created a sign thanking the supporters of the FPAA Block Watch Beautification effort: Lowe's, Sutherlands, Ohio Mulch, City Land Bank and the SACG.

The first monthly neighborhood walk-though was conducted by officials and an attorney from the City’s Code Enforcement Division. As reflected by the success of NYC and Braddock, Pennsylvania, strict code enforcement is one of the best ways to reduce crime in a neighborhood. Who knows why? Is it because people tend to obey laws when they see even “minor” ones being enforced? Is it because they are less likely to commit crime when the area is attractive (i.e., no graffiti or overgrown weeds)?

Ownership of the two “eyesore” buildings between the SACG and East Main Street has been transferred to the City’s Land Bank. A no-trespassing sign has been posted on the buildings. Over the last ten days, contractors have been mowing grass and chopping down trees on the property (which now deprives our shed of shade, but will increase the amount of rain collected by the shed’s rain barrel). I have been unsuccessful in obtaining information from the City about its plans for the two buildings. Is demolition imminent? What will this mean for the SACG? And our shed and compost bins?

The Block Watch received a tiny (and I do mean tiny) federal grant, which funded the purchase of two security cameras for the neighborhood. The cameras have been installed and video is being recorded as part of a pilot project. We would like to install three more cameras along Cherry Street between Morrison and Fairwood since there has been some criminal activity in the area over the last few years. I will be working with BTBO, Urban Connections and Roy’s Body Shop to pursue additional grants (including through the United Way’s Neighborhood Partnership Grant program). Several of the neighbors have been funding Block Watch initiatives out of their own pocket.

There has been increased and aggressive police visibility in the neighborhood, especially in serving arrest warrants and deterring drug activity. Neighbors reported less loitering on the street (which had been blocking traffic).

Concern was expressed about continued dumping of construction debris in the alley between Stoddart and Morrison Avenues. Hopefully, the cameras will obtain at least license plate information about the illegal dumping.

After the meeting, I walked behind the police station to check out the community garden supported by First English Lutheran Church. As I approached, I observed a gentleman stop his SUV, get out and begin to harvest tomatoes. When I asked if he was a gardener, he reminded me that we had met previously and he was a Board member of Four Seasons City Farm, which licenses the lots upon which there are two community gardens. The first garden (which was pretty weed-ridden) was filled with orange tomato plants, which had all been donated in June by Strader’s Garden Centers. He explained that he had been at the carry-out around the corner and the carry-out owner explained that he lacked fresh tomatoes to sell. So, this gentleman was going to harvest a dozen or so for the carryout manager to sell to his patrons. Then, he showed me the First English community garden, where I admired the fence used to support their tomato plants. They also had herbs and pepper plants as well. My host explained that they admired our fence (around the garden) at the SACG, as well as our locked gates.

On my way back to my car, I passed an elderly gentleman who was picking up litter with one hand and supporting himself with a cane with the other hand. He was an inspiration.

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