The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

City Council wants police to help fix smaller, ‘broken-glass’ problems as a way to lessen scarier ones

In City Hall, Neighborhoods, Police Department on April 2, 2009 at 10:09 am

Council member Justin Shields says he constantly gets calls from citizens complaining about chronic jaywalking on busy First Avenue East near where police officer Tim Davis was assaulted Sunday evening while investigating a robbery.

With the attack on Davis fresh in his and other council members’ minds, Shields wondered just how unruly and unsafe some of these areas have gotten.

Council member Brian Fagan said any tougher police approach to crime needed to be seen in the context of the city’s Enhance Our Neighborhoods initiative.

The Enhance Our Neighborhoods (EON) program is premised on the idea that a many-pronged approach to problem neighborhoods is the way to revitalize them. EON, for instance, wants problem landlords to keep up their properties and problem tenants to get evicted.

Council member Monica Vernon said the model for “aggressive” community policing also envisions that citizens participate in helping police by reporting infractions of law and city codes to the city.

This is the broken-glass theory of neighborhood rebirth, Mayor Kay Halloran noted, which former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gained some credit for putting in place in New York City. The idea is that a community that fixes small things like broken windows and jaywalking finds it takes care of bigger problems in the process.

Vernon suggested it was time for a “community cleanup.” Making neighborhoods look more “ship-shape” would have a favorable effect on life in them, she said.

It was some years ago when the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association led just such a neighborhood cleanup effort that used neighbors and city crews to cart junk out of homes and to the landfill. So successful was the exercise that it spread citywide. But it lost the volunteer flavor, became a cost to the city budget and was abandoned.

Shields said problems in city neighborhoods were not limited to the area where the police officer was hurt on Sunday evening.

He pointed to problems in the neighborhood out by Kirkwood Community College, which is in his council district. And he pointed to his own southwest Cedar Rapids neighborhood. He said a burglar threw a rock through a neighbor’s window at 6 p.m. one recent evening as a way to get inside the house. The owner was on her computer in the basement when the intruder entered, and Shields said it scared her to death.

He said anymore you have to lock your house just to walk out to the mailbox.

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  1. It is really a shame that it took Officer Tim Davis getting assaulted in order to get this City Council off their rearends and start supporting our Police Department.All I’ve seen before this,is that they have to find some way to lower their budget.I
    do hope that the Council doesn’t go overboard and tries to set up what the Police will do,but instead tell Chief Graham that he is to use whatever means he has available or needs in order to clean this city and ALL neighborhoods up.The Council is NOT trained in Law Enforcement so let the professionals take charge and get the job done.If they need more funding to get it done then give it to them.

  2. i remember when members of the city council wanted our little town to become more “metropolitan” like Chicago….. well it looks like we finally have it. high taxes and high crime. AWESOME!!!!

  3. This all sounds like some rare wisdom from the council. How about some ideas on how to execute it other than just working the police harder?

  4. Come on Justin, you claim you “constantly get calls from citizens complaining about chronic jaywalking on busy First Avenue East”.
    Define constantly, Justin. Why would you be called? Are you now part of law enforcement along with your part time council duties? Evidently on BUSY First Ave East we have dialing and talking on a cell phone problem there also. Or am I to beleive these people who constantly call you stay so angry until they get home, to call you. One more thing,lobosolo I agree with you, and if you had attended any of the so-called neighborhood planning sessions at the Crown Plaza, you would have been rolling on the floor laughing at the pictures we were shown as examples of what the flood affected areas would/could become. Or you would have became so disgusted and never attended another session like myself. I remember riding down the elevator with another lady who also was leaving early, and I said to her, ” I guess our city really sucked before the flood”. She agreed, and said I won’t be attending anymore of the meetings either.

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