August 2008



Today I talked to former CR council member Dale Todd, also a long-time Wellington Heights resident, and he brought up a pretty obvious point that I should have tried to clarify in my story about no witnesses coming forward in Hurt’s death — Why give information to the police if you don’t feel like they will protect you afterward?

There are crack deals happening in the Second Avenue/15th Street corridor, Todd said. There are prostitutes. The police should see this stuff happening, he said, it’s so out in the open. So why are they still letting it happen? And if they’re letting that stuff happen, how can anyone believe the police will put a stop to vandalism and worse retaliation against you if you share information on a murder?

It’s true that some of the people who live here and are affected by criminal activity aren’t saints themselves. But even fallen angels deserve the same protection as everyone else. We are, after all, created equal.

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I got this e-mail from a Wellington Heights resident this morning:

Alicia,

 

Really… you really believe what the cops tell you, have you spent anytime in this neighborhood… the cops constantly ignore this problem and will do nothing about it because they are scared of the residents in the neighborhood… who’s the boss here… the thugs or the police?   That neighborhood should be on lockdown every night with the crime that goes on down there… but time and time again it’s “nobody talks to us”… we’ll there are ways around that if you actually want to solve this problem but I guess we’re too busy causing accidents on I-380 doing speedtraps… you do realize they were running one last week which caused the accident that the newsroom sent a text message out about… the drugs are so rampant and out of control and the cops consistently ignore it and call it a landlord-tenant dispute.  Beatings, prostitution, drugs, sexual assault, theft, vandilism and now murder again… please tell me this is the first you’ve heard about this because everyone else just says how horrible that is and then looks away and asks about the Hawks… the cops are 0 for 2 on murders so far this year, you would think in a city this size they could apply some pressure somewhere… thought this new police chief was a go getter… anyways please do not disseminate this info as our families lives are in danger in the neighborhood and nobody will help us either:(

I hear this alarmist version of what’s going on in the neighborhood, and then I think of my own experience, and the experience of others I know who live in here. I feel like there’s a disconnect — I have not once felt my life was in danger there, even walking at night. I even live a block from where Aubrey Young was shot to death shortly after the flood. I feel like I DO take a stand against drugs and violence. I won’t tolerate being intimidated by criminal activity. If I don’t like what’s going on, I will get involved.

Here’s a theory: Do you think some people view Wellington Heights as more dangerous simply because the population of black people and other minorities there is 5 times higher than the rest of the city? That racism is part of the problem here?

I think Terry Bilsland, Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association president, is right when he says, “95 percent of the residents here go to work in the morning and come home to mow their lawns at night. 5 percent of the people cause all the problems.” And, I can assure you, those people come in all colors.

An old photo of Jerry Hurt, pictured here with ex-wife, Doris Moody, and their two children — Erica Moody, now 15, and Jerry Jr. (right), now 10. Dempsey Moody (center) is Doris’ son from a previous relationship.

Hurt, 46, died at St. Luke’s Hospital last night after he was whacked in the head with some kind of pipe laying in the 200 block of 14th Street SE. His family thinks they know the man who did it. That man robbed Jerry last week, they said, and the two had a longstanding “beef” with each other. Police are being cautious with their statements, but it’s clear they also think they know who did it. They are just trying to determine the man’s intent. Did he just want to rob him again, or did he mean to kill him?

Hurt clearly has a large family with a long history in Cedar Rapids, especially living in the Wellington Heights neighborhood. When talking to them, I began to think about how fleeting life is. A niece told me that the last time she saw Hurt was Monday, when he went to see her while she was working at Kentucky Fried Chicken on First Avenue E. He got something to eat and left. The next time she sees him, he’ll be in a casket.

To have your life taken from you before it’s over…I can’t think of a worse crime.

And, no, it didn’t break down.

Police left it sitting under the Seventh Street bridge over Interstate 380 northbound on Tuesday to “make a statement,” according to scanner traffic. What statement might that be? To slow down through town, presumably. But anyone with half a brain noticed there wasn’t anyone in it. At least after they were given the initial shock.

I remember reading about cities that put up cardboard cutouts of police vehicles to discourage speeding along highways and interstates. It had the same effect without tying up resources…

“Bomb threats” happen more than you think, according to Cedar Rapids police. Latest case in point: Late Friday afternoon, a call came in to BioLife Plasma Services threatening to blow up the building. The plasma center, at 5949 Council St. NE, called in the report to police.

But apparently nothing came of it. Officers told them to call back if anything suspicious happened and they didn’t, according to police reports. The call came in about three hours before closing time, but BioLife officials haven’t returned messages requesting information on whether they evacuated the building.

Most likely they didn’t. A bomb threat called into the Blairs Ferry Road Wal-Mart earlier this year was also not a cause for concern among managers there after some precursory checking. But it’s sad that people would so frequently make these calls, apparently as a joke, resulting in the threats not being taken seriously. I mean, they are taken seriously at schools, but what is going to happen if an attack happens at a local business and no one did anything to take precautions?

I will always feel sick to my stomach when I run across search warrants served in sexual abuse cases. In all honesty, objectivity becomes moot I read about a little girl’s babysitter making her perform sexual acts before she can watch a children’s movie. And these warrants are sometimes a bit graphic. I remember one I read last year about a boy whose babysitter anally raped him nearly every day one summer and told him “That’s what friends do.”

Sick.

Such was the case in the arrest of Lester Cory, 47, of 226 Simpson St. SW. Cory allegedly babysat a 7-year-old girl who lived down the street several days and nights this summer. The abuse, which the girl said happened three times, was reported July 30.

Not only do these cases inflame public outrage against all sex offenders, they really highlight the near worthlessness of our current laws. The #1 fact of sexual abuse is that it almost always is done by someone close to the child — not some unknown, creepy guy who lives within 2,000 of a school or park. Cory wasn’t on any sex offender list, either, and he didn’t have a court record. Outside of her father making a more informed choice of temporary caregiver, was there any way this little girl could have been protected?

Perhaps our moral outrage should be directed in a different direction. But where do we turn when we cannot blame our government, our police — anyone — for not protecting us from this? Can we blame anyone?

Jeffrey Rae, 28, was in Beijing, donating his time to Students for a Free Tibet to film their protest efforts at the Olympics. He was with Brian Conley, a video blogger and four SFT activists. They apparently planned to shine a big old laser beam on an Olympics Village building.

Read the full story here.

Rae was an intern here in summer 2002. He is a 2003 graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology with a photojournalism degree who was living in eastern Pennsylvania. He was working as a graphic designer for the Transport Workers Union as a graphic artist because, his father says, he “couldn’t find a newspaper job.”

I’m sure, if the State Department can manage to get him out of Chinese jail, that dry streak will dry right up.

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