Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Between Heights" Community Meeting

I just got home from the community meeting held at the Air Conditioned Lounge, hosted by Councilwoman Toni Atkins. "I have to say, this is my first community meeting in a bar." There was a Lieutenant from the SDPD Western Division and a few other officers (which covers more or less the area east of the I-805 to as far north as Linda Vista, though the southern boundary wasn't made clear.) At any given time, there are 104 patrol on the streets of greater San Diego. Also present were representatives of Neighborhood Watch, the Stonewall Citizen Patrol, the Adams Avenue Business Association, the owners of A/C Louge and Kadan, and 80+ citizens of the community. Noticeably absent: more bar patrons who are the ones likely to be walking home or to their cars in the late hours of the night. For that reason, I will do my best here to give a detailed description of what was discussed.

The first part of the meeting was to summarize the homicide and assault that took place last week at the 2900 block of Suncrest Drive. Because the investigation continues, few details were given though there are leads on the perp. The suspect was described as an African American male between 20 and 30 years old and he left on foot from the scene, though there was a light colored van in the alley that may or may not be related to the crime. Per usual, any tips can be called in to (888)-580-TIPS if you have any information that might be related to the crime that took the life of 30 year old Timothy Traaen. The police also informed the audience that another major crime took place within the last week in the form of a robbery of the 7-11 on Adams and Ohio.

The second part focused on how not to be a victim of crime... safety in numbers, be aware of your surroundings, look like you know where you're going, and in the case that you are mugged, to just give the criminal what they are asking for ( with the recommendation of minimizing the cash and personal items on your person, and dividing your cash stash between wallets, pockets, etc.) There were also suggestions about what can be done within the community and there were very obvious suggestions that I think people should really take the time to do.

1. Turn on your porch light. Many of the areas in the Heights are dark. Even the streetlights have a soft orange glow because we are in the flight path of Lindburgh Field. If you notice street lights out, call the office of Toni Atkins and they will be replaced. (I'll list all numbers at the end of this post). Don't be afraid to carry a flashlight while waltzing through these darker parts of the neighborhood.

2. Know your neighbors. It's not hard to introduce yourself to the people who live around you. You don't have to be friends, but knowing who they are, what car they drive, what kind of people they entertain can go a long way in being able to spot when something is askew. Because most of this audience was older and not the 'bar crowd', I would go even further and say it's easy to give your neighbors your number. When I have a big backyard party, I leave a note with my phone number, suggesting that if the noise gets too loud, that they can call me. This is usually a good faith measure and because of it, I've been left alone all these years.

I will also add that as regular bar patrons, people generally do not like us. Despite the majority of our hoods being mixed-use and generally pedestrian oriented, the community represented here do not like us. They don't like the bars staying open late. They don't like the noise generated from the bars. They don't like the noise generated from people leaving the bars. They don't like the transient population that finds a safe haven in or near the neighborhood bars. They don't like the group of smokers hanging outside any given bar on any given night. They don't like people pissing in their yards. Just by the representation of these community members at this meeting and the lack of any significant number of bar patrons, it is clear why there has been a crackdown on music venues, or bars with jukeboxes that are too loud, or dj's that are too loud. And after the empowerment people felt from this meeting, you can guess people are gonna have their ears perked a little bit more. I would just say check yourself, check your friends.

The Stonewall Citizens Patrol was an interesting part of the meeting. They formed after the string of hate crimes after last year's Pride. They are a community patrol who volunteer to monitor the hood Thursday through Sunday 9p-3a, from Hillcrest to Normal Heights. They are trained by SDPD and cruise in one marked SUV and also in private vehicles with magnetic identification on the side. They are "the eyes and ears" of the Police and do not engage in any interaction with citizens except to pass out literature, flashlights and safety whistles. They are seeking volunteers all the time and said that if you called today, you could be on patrol this weekend. Another function they serve is to notify the city when streetlights are out. (They just reported 37 this past weekend).

There were two programs mentioned to help light up the neighborhood. One is a city granted security light program. Many people complained of gang activity, prostitution, and drug activity occurring in dimly lit areas. Because there are strings of alleys throughout the neighborhood, and they are usually not lit by streetlights, the city has a security lighting program that will install, at no cost to landowners, motion detecting security lights. If you live in an apartment, approval is needed by the owner, but at no cost, it's hard to see anyone objecting to such lighting. If you think you could use such a program, contact the office of Toni Atkins. In cases where streetlights are desired but bogged down in bureaucracy (they can take 9 months for approval), there is a program through SDG&E where property owners can split a prorated cost of streetlights over a course of time with community funding.

There was almost an hour of community questions that the presenters usually had a good answer to, in the way of the programs mentioned above. Then there were kinda off the wall questions like "In a home invasion, is it true the intruder has to be in my house before I can shoot them?" But for the most part, it felt like people just felt good about the meeting and the people that represent our community. Almost 100% of the attendees showed interest in future meetings to create more neighborhood watch-style programs. I would say that while it's nice to MySpace bulletins and whatnot, actions speak louder and unless people take a stand to reclaim the neighborhoods in which they live, these criminals will continue to target our areas.

Important Numbers Below:

Police Department Non-Emergency Number: 619.531.2000
Councilwoman Toni Atkins' Office: 619.236.6633
Stonewall Citizens Patrol: 619.305.0976
Adams Avenue Business Association: 619.282.7329

Between Heights Website


Anonymous said...

Great post. Good info. Always need reminders as such.


andi928 said...

thanks rosey.
for months i have been wanting my neighbor to fix her light that has been burned out/broken. it's way too dark and i kinda knew it was a matter of time before something happened.
at the corner of beech and 31st last night, sure enough, someone broke into a neighbor's car and we think someone may have been in another neighbor's backyard. will confirm the whole story with my next door neighbor who was quick enough to take down the license plate. good news is everyone was looking out for each other and very much on the ball(except me who slept thru most of this, including car alarms and a helicopter that followed).
so i can attest to the importance of well lit streets and side yards. also the importance of looking out for each other and going with your gut feeling, which a neighbor across the street did three years ago just after i moved in. he saw someone suspicious at my front door on a friday morning at 10 and called the police. they were there within 2 minutes and ended up arrresting two guys (one was trying to break in via my backyard). they had stolen a car and had drugs on them. and luckily the police were there before they got into my house. i got an alarm a week later.

sorry for the long rambling post but my point is...be careful and
look out for each other!

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