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Residents fight to defend their homes

By Staff
Fence is installed in Old Fort area
By PATTI TRUJILLO, Special to the Daily News
The Washington Housing Authority and Old Fort residents met on Saturday to assess the progress of fencing installation and address other issues important to the community.
A five-foot-tall black chain link fencing is being installed along the back and side yards of units in the block bordered by Respass, 7th and 9th streets. Tubular, decorative fencing is on order to place across the front yards of the units on the block, and will link the brick piers already in place. Eventually, with the availability of funds, the fencing will be in place throughout the WHA property in Old Fort.
The chain link fence divides the block into three discrete areas, with no thoroughfare.
A resident said, “At least until they cut the fence.”
Recko pointed out that WHA has a line item in the budget that means, if the fence gets cut, “We’re here the next day fixing it.”
The idea of defensible space was first promulgated by the late architect Oscar Newman. He held that environmental design can be useful to deter crime.
Recko says the effort should be citywide. Drug dealers and other “bad guys” should be shown that they are not welcome in Washington. “If we’re united,” he said, “no one can stop us.”
WHA maintenance worker Coley Moore mentioned that residents and police should be vigilant at times the school buses bring children home, saying “abductions can happen here.”
Old Fort residents’ council president Maranda Tobin pointed out an area of faulty lighting and noted complaints about trash being left in the area, especially in the basketball court.
Resident Cynthia Waters said, “People could put on some gloves and pick up the trash. It’s our community.”
Moore agreed, saying, “We shouldn’t have to come from across town to pick up trash in your yard. There’s a lot of work out there and we can’t do it alone.”
The next step in creating a safe community, according to Recko, is dealing with foot traffic and congregation points along the roadways in Old Fort, especially the intersections. He said that, although car traffic is an issue, “75 percent of the problem is foot traffic.” He said he would like see some sort of road closure, along 9th Street to start. He has spoken with Police Chief Mick Reed and City Manager Jim Smith about the idea and found them “favorably disposed to work with us.”
Charleston, S.C., has successfully used this form of “passive enforcement,” he said. “They did it 20 years ago….,” Recko said. “Is our property safe? It’s not. Can we change that? We can.”