Circlin' Round the Chief
Last night, about 35 members of the newly forged Belmont Neighborhood Association came together to talk with--and at--DPD's Head Finest, Chief Kunkle, about the fact that crime is shitty, bars are loud and parking blows for those who live near Lowest Greenville. Total shock, right?
Anybody who's ever come within six feet of the Barking Dog, Avi Adelman, probably receives his weekly e-mails about the progress (or lack thereof) in the crusade against "scumbars" and code violators in his neighborhood. Avi's the outgoing president of the Belmont NA, a group that broke away from the larger Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association in 2003. Diana Souza, a third-generation Lower Greenville resident, will take over as president this year.
The heaviest concentration of bars and, according to the residents at the meeting, the largest population of obnoxious college kids, drug dealers, vandals and general riff-raff is concentrated south of Belmont, east of Greenville, north of Ross and west of Skillman. It's a whole different situation north of Belmont, where it appears people sleep much more comfortably.
Avi's got recent stats about crime (the usual--burglary, auto theft, aggravated assault with the occasional sex offense for good measure), which has become a major concern for residents. Just after Chief Kunkle, who lives north of Belmont in the Greenville area, assured the group crime was down 10 percent (18 percent for violent crime), he then dropped a not-so-surprising bomb on a crowd basically demanding for more police attention in their neighborhood: "Generally our officers don't like to patrol the Lower Greenville area."
So there you go. Want parking enforced? Want noise lowered? Want those pesky kids peeing in the yard hauled downtown? You've gotta have cops to do the job. Trouble is, those cops sure do hate working down there. Who could blame them? When it comes to drunken college kids and emptying dance clubs at the end of the night, said Kunkle, "We feel like we're caught in the middle of this drama we don't want to be involved in."
Don't get me wrong, Kunkle was nothing but completely receptive to the concerns of residents, and Avi backed him up. These complaints weren't going in one ear and out the other, Avi assured me. The police department is redrawing patrol divisions, creating seven areas from the current six in hopes of narrowing the focus of officers in the Lower Greenville Area. They're also putting six more officers in the neighborhood on patrol for Fridays and Saturdays.
Councilwoman Angela Hunt (pretty much a stone-cold fox in a chic black pencil skirt and matching jacket) was also at the meeting. Turns out last Friday night, she joined Belmont NA incoming pres Souza at her home on Oram and ended up kicking (gl)ass and taking names. When a bunch of co-eds paraded down Oram breaking bottles on the curb after midnight, she chased the kids down the street with DPD Sgt. Walter Clifton in tow, forcing them to pick up the mess they'd made in front of the harsh headlights of a police cruiser.
Hunt closed the meeting with a plea for votes in the upcoming bond election, which she said calls for $452,000 in street improvements and $818,000 for street and sidewalk lighting. She's also called for studies on area businesses' codes of occupancy and parking allocations, promising something on the completely fubar parking situation sometime in the next month. I'll believe it when I see it.
Sounded to me like it's gonna be baby steps all the way to the elevator, and people will still probably be bitching and moaning once they all get inside. That's the job of neighborhood associations, anyway, in my mind. I don't think that, even as vice prez of the Belmont NA, Avi's about to let up any time soon, and Souza seemed like a force to be reckoned with indeed. For now, it's (maybe) better streets and lighting, more cops (even if they hate the shift) and a more focused police response area. Baby steps. Fetus steps. --Andrea Grimes