Mayor Kristen Brown told Ninth Street Park neighborhood residents that she is weighing tougher local ordinances to address criminal activity and abandoned homes, and she pledged more timely responses to residents’ complaints.
About 30 neighborhood residents attended a meeting Tuesday evening at Second Baptist Church to talk about neighborhood problems. Brown had called for the meeting to seek input from residents, especially concerning potentially illegal activity at nearby Ninth Street Park.
Residents voiced particular concerns about activity in the park and asked how best to address them.
“We’ve seen drug deals go down,” said Lynette Harris, who grew up in the neighborhood and has lived there for almost 50 years.
Resident Chris Rutan told city officials that he would like a fence installed all around the park to keep people out at night, but other residents disagreed. Terry Anderson, who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, said if people want to get into the park, they’ll get into the park, fence or no fence.
Many residents praised Columbus police and parks and recreation departments for their additional patrols around the park, although some still wondered why police do not make more arrests.
Police Chief Jason Maddix said city police officers have been in the park 438 times this year, mostly for extra patrols, to talk to neighbors and to maintain a visible police presence.
But he said police cannot patrol the park around the clock. He asked residents to continue to call police when they see suspicious activity.
Sometimes police officers will not be able to do anything but ask people to leave the park after it closes at 11 p.m., but the more often residents call and the more care they take in describing individuals and their activity, the more likely police can take action.
“Eventually I think we can make an impact,” Maddix said.
Randy Allman, executive director of the nonprofit Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center, said residents can meet with police officers at the center if they are worried about retaliation for meeting with law enforcement.
Lt. Matt Myers, of CPD, asked residents to remain involved, even if the process sometimes seems frustrating.
“I want you guys to partner up with us, be our eyes and ears. ... We will respond,” he said.
Residents also complained about abandoned homes and landlords keeping their homes in such poor shape that they invite animal problems and criminal activity.
Brad Grayson, president of the Bartholomew County Landlord Association, which represents 400 landlords, encouraged residents to report problems to Bartholomew County Code Enforcement or to contact him if they get no response.
Anderson said that he has complained about some issues but sometimes does not get a response or a response in timely enough manner to make a difference.
After the meeting, most residents said they thought the meeting was productive and provided them with some answers.