Wellington Heights


Near the heart of Wellington Heights recently, residents have been telling me their car and house windows are getting broken. Funny thing, though — some of them who try to report the vandalism to police are getting little response. I saw in the police call logs at least one call Sunday from a resident in the 300 block of 16th Street SE that was listed as “handled by officer.” That same person said in an e-mail that two rocks were thrown through their bedroom window.

To be fair, they are taking notes on the suspicious fires that keep happening around here. But that’s vandalism, and the police didn’t take a report. Nor have they issued any kind of “warning” about what’s happening.

Now today, the police department issues a vandalism alert for residents in the area of Ashford Drive NE. Basically, it’s the same stuff that’s happening. What gives? Is it just because this is a more affluent neighborhood? Anyone have any other thoughts?

UPDATE: The next day police issued a vandalism alert for the 1800 block of Washington Avenue SE for stuff that happened that week. It didn’t include any of the stuff I talked about from the week before, though. Boy, that just must mean there’s a lot of it going on.

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I heard from two Wellington Heights residents last week who feel unsafe going outside in their neighborhood. They live smack dab in the middle of it, within blocks of Redmond Park. Every time they sit out on their porch or take their kids to the park or the new playground at Johnson Elementary, they hear extremely disrespectful language and see fights starting where large groups gather. These women are fed up with lax police response to what is going on. I, for one, agree with them.

Here’s an e-mail I received from one of them:

 

I just got back from taking my kids to the new playground at Johnson School. I had taken them there earlier in the day, only to be met by older kids cursing, yelling, and fighting. When I asked the kids politely to stop, they said OK but continued.  Things like “I’m gonna f*** that girl til she breaks like a twig” and other nasty things.  We moved far away, could still hear, so I left.

Earlier this afternoon, my husband walked to HyVee to pick up a few things.  He came across an elderly man and a prostitiute “in the act” in the man’s car.  He knocked on the window, pulled out his cell phone, the man cursed him and drove off.

Then tonight the kids begged me to take them to the playground again (because it is so great!)  Three other adults I know were taking their kids, so I went along with them.  A large group of teens were congregating on the sidewalk, which made me nervous. A police car drove by, but didn’t stop.

About 10 minutes after arriving, two carfuls of teen boys pulled up.  The boys pulled up and a fight started.  I was too far away to see exactly what happened, but my elderly friend pulled out her cell to call 911 when she saw the boys taking swings. I was told later that she almost got hit and mowed over by the crowd. I did hear one teen girl say something like, “Let’s leave before someone gets shot.”

It took about 15 MINUTES for the police to arrive. He told us that this is a parenting issue. That they have a right to assemble. I said — and you have a right to stop and say “What’s up?” when you see a large group of people congregating. He said no. I said — well, feel free to stop me anytime. He responded that not everyone feels this way. Tell me, why are the POLICE intimidated by the thugs??  I’ve been in many a non-violent protest (before kids, when I lived in WA state) and cops ALWAYS stopped to talk to US congregating on the sidewalks??!!!

I was angry at first and had raised my voice — then started to walk away. He said — you can’t yell at me, then walk away from me. Funny how he felt he had power to keep ME there with him, but not do anything with the thugs who were actually terrorizing our neighborhood??

I love this neighborhood — my neighbors (of all colors, economics, renters, homeowners, etc. just to be clear) are awesome. My kids have good friends here. Our mortgage is LOW. Our house has CHARACTER.  But I’m starting to feel like we’ve lost the battle — that the thugs (teens, clowns, what have you) have taken over.

What do you think?? What can I do that’s proactive??

You have to admit, it’s intimidating to encounter a group of 10+ people no matter where you are because you may not be sure what they’re doing there. That goes double if they look like “thugs” (although you can argue that some people interpret the clothing styles and posturing of some black young people, in particular, as threatening in themselves). The First Amendment gives people a right to assemble on public grounds, but the police also have the right to get out of their squad cars and talk to them. I believe as long as the teenagers and others who are in those crowds know that the police aren’t afraid to disperse them if they have to, that it would prevent fights from happening and people could breathe a little easier. It might help if these kids’ parents were more involved in their lives, too…they’d probably have better things to do than stand around in the park.
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Here’s part of a response I received by e-mail about this issue:

Police HAVE TO get out of their squads and introduce themselves to people, gangs, kids or anyone in any public place. It is in their job description and they need to be reminded of this periodically its seems. So, write the Police Chief, your Councilmen/women, attend and participate in neighborhood meetings, programs and so on. Be a helpful solution. I’ve had Neighborhood Watch meetings every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Wellington House and NO ONE shows up. So things MUST be ok, right?

However, having said that, they (the police) CANNOT be everywhere all the time. To waste a non-emergency call on a 911 is excusable, but shouldn’t happen too often as it defeats the purpose of the 911 system, much less over crowding it unnecessarily. But when one is under stress of “perceived” danger, go for it.

The officer was right as it is a “parenting issue” and what can they, you or even I do about it? Well having had teenagers myself, I know even the best parents have “parenting issues” with people/children of that age. Teenagers are the curse every parent pays for having had sex. As to statements of someone saying something about being shot was most likely puffing. That is unless you witnessed a gun. Then I hope you were able to turn in license numbers, car and people descriptions.

Also, you said the incident occurred in Wellington Heights as if the WHOLE area of my neighborhood was involved. Why? Didn’t it happened it at a particular address or location? Why mislabel the whole neighborhood? Your Board members and neighborhood friends have been working hard to correct that misaligned mentality of making Wellington Heights seem like an unsafe place. IT is NOT. Check out the crime statistics by neighborhood or per captia and you will find us extremely safe of most crimes. But even one is too many, isn’t it?

Finally, and this is more than just my opinion, YOU and the other adults did nothing wrong by expecting to be able go anywhere in this neighborhood or town without fear for yourself, be it in a playground or in the grocery store.

As to what you and I can do? Simply by continuing to use the parks, playgrounds, sidewalks and whatever public areas are available and not let thugs, punks or simple miscreants “get to you.” Document and report. If really threatened yourself, then call 911.

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Police Chief Greg Graham has told me that he is encouraging officers to do more of the in-person, community policing activities. I hope that soon some of these fights will dwindle, and I hope that if they have anything to do with gang or drug activity that it drops off. Just last week, a man was arrested outside of my house for selling crack cocaine. I’m personally vested in this. Let me know your thoughts!


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.

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.