06/16/09 — Neighbors fear for their safety

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Neighbors fear for their safety

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 16, 2009 1:46 PM

It started with trespassing -- people walking to and from the Courtyard apartment complex via yards in area neighborhoods.

But when residents of Harris Street Estates spoke up, they said they became "targeted."

"If they say anything ... a dog gets shot or a beer bottle is left under a tire," said Beth Parrish, an official from Habitat for Humanity, the organization responsible for the construction of a dozen or more homes in the area. "Every day."

The safety of residents in that neighborhood was a hot topic at Monday's City Council meeting.

One woman, who asked that her name not be used for fear of retaliation, said at least 30 incidents, from vandalism to breaking and entering, have occurred in Harris Street Estates this month.

"It seems like our area is being targeted," she said. "My house has been broken into. My neighbor's house has been broken into. We fear for our safety."

Mayor Al King said he was "shocked" by her report.

"Look, we are concerned. You certainly don't need this," he said. "One way or another, we are going to have to solve this."

Some suggested an increased police presence in the area.

"That's what we're hoping for," the woman said. "More patrolling in the area."

Others said building a fence between Courtyard and the homes might work.

Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck Allen disagreed.

"I don't think a fence is going to stop them," he said.

Police Chief Tim Bell concurred, but said he was not sure exactly what steps would need to be taken to control the vandals.

But a meeting scheduled for next week between city officials and the parties is a good start, he said.

Chief Building Inspector Ed Cianfarra also expressed concerns about safety at Monday's meeting -- only he wasn't referring to the situation at Harris Street Estates.

He stood before the council to recommend condemnation of several dilapidated structures around the city he said pose a hazard.

Like 704 E. Holly St., a structure he called "totally unsafe."

Or 1000 E. Elm St., where "the weather and birds are all nesting" in a roof he said was "deteriorating and caving in."

And asbestos shingles are present at 1714 S. Slocumb St., another location now slated for demolition.

The other homes condemned Monday include 431 Elm St., 700 Elm St. and 1116 Devereaux St.