Sweeping the streets

Published 8:22 pm Thursday, April 12, 2007

By Staff
The hundreds of eyes and ears in a neighborhood are invaluable when it comes to fighting crime.
Although a police presence will help deter crime, it’s the alertness of neighborhood residents combined with a sense of protecting the community that makes a meaningful difference in the fight on crime.
Some residents of the Old Fort community in Washington are doing their part to protect their neighborhood — and the city — from crime. While police are in the neighborhood from time to time, its residents are there around the clock.
It’s no secret the Old Fort neighborhood has a history and reputation of being a “hot spot” when it comes to crime. Most of those crimes are drug-related. But there are some Old Fort residents who don’t want the crime or the reputation it brings to their community.
As part of their effort to make their neighborhood better, some Old Fort residents have signed agreements with the Washington Police Department that allow police officers to arrest people trespassing on residents’ properties.
One longtime resident of West Seventh Street recently told the Daily News that strangers gather in front of her home “first thing in the morning and all night.” That problem began about five to six years ago, she said. The resident said she’s observed numerous drug-related transactions take place.
The criminal activity reached a point where she didn’t want to sit on her porch.
After she signed the agreement with the police department, things improved, the resident said.
That’s because the resident and others like her are allowing police to do a good job by helping them. People who live in a neighborhood around the clock have more opportunities to observe and report criminal activities. They know who belongs in the neighborhood and who is an outsider. Sharing that information with police can only help make the community safer.
Police know the value of community involvement when it comes to fighting crime.
The Washington Housing Authority is doing its part to fight the crime problem. The authority has residences in the Old Fort community.
Anyone fighting, selling drugs or conducting other illegal activities on Washington Housing Authority property can be banned from that property. A person banned from a Washington Housing Authority property may appeal once a year to have the ban lifted. Sometimes a ban is repealed, if the person who was banned from the property proves he or she has changed for the good.
It’s good to see residents, police and the Washington Housing Authority joining hands and working together to make a community safer instead of pointing fingers of blame at each other. There’s more power in an outstretched hand than in a clenched fist.
Those Old Fort residents helping to rid their neighborhood of crime are sending a powerful message to criminals: We don’t want you and the problems you bring with you in our streets, around our homes and in our community. Those Old Fort residents should be able to sit on their porches without fear of gunfire erupting and bullets flying when a drug deal goes bad.
Instead of drug deals on the streets, Old Fort residents want to see mothers pushing their children in strollers down sidewalks.
If those hundreds of eyes and ears in the Old Fort community can make a difference, then think what thousands of eyes and ears in other communities could accomplish.
The fight against crime begins at the street level. It’s where we live. It’s where we must fight.