Battling Blight to Reduce Crime
Mary Jo Smith is president of the neighborhood’s radio patrol. It’s a group that does more than just drive around “We try and see that every vacant house gets adopted so that somebody nearby makes sure that the ad fliers get picked up and that there’s no junk dropped on the yard. And if the front yard can be mowed, that’s really good.”
Mary Jo says, “One of our groups in radio patrol specializes in painting out the occasional bit of graffiti, gang or otherwise, that appears. Another one specializes in taking down illegal signs, others keep tabs on street lights that don’t come on.”
Another group does what Mary Jo calls “creative walking.”
On a rainy Thursday afternoon we caught up with a small group of men sloshing through the streets of the University District. It’s one more part of that neighborhood’s efforts to bust blight.
John Hall started the group. He told us, “We’ll get a report from the radio patrol stating ‘look out for this house or that house’ based on the fact they had a breaking and entering or maybe something not boarded up, so we’ll report that to the proper authorities.” As a result, abandoned homes haven’t been stripped.
The University District also works with the Detroit Crime Commission to sue owners of abandoned and neglected properties. Andrew Arena is the Executive Director and he says there is a direct connection between crime and blighted houses, “They’ve become refuge for vermin, for garbage. More importantly I think they become a center point for criminal activity. Either arson, drug houses, gang activity or basically just used for a myriad of criminal activities.”
In the University District, lawsuits were filed against ten owners. Several have been settled, but the future of at least one house is still in the hands of the courts.
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