by Erik Hare
We all have neighbors that we have “issues” with from time to time. When those become a reasonable threat to our safety or affect our peace of mind in our own home they may cross a line and become a “problem property.” Many residents of the West End have had to deal with this from time to time, and there is an ongoing effort at the Federation to do what it takes to resolve one long standing dispute.
“First of all,” says Betty Moran, the Community Organizer of the Federation, “People need to know that these can be solved. They can’t do it alone and have to get together with their neighbors and take action. But we have taken care of these kinds of problems before and we’ll keep doing it as long as there is a problem.”
What is a “problem property?” A loud party doesn’t even come near to making the cut. But if neighbors are constantly having loud parties late into the morning so that you can’t sleep, that may count — and may be a violation of noise ordinances. If those parties spill into the street and become large brawls that include the police on a regular basis, you certainly have a “problem property.” If there are weapons involved and you and your family have reason not to feel safe, that could qualify without repeated events.
The Federation Board heard from some neighbors who are dealing with a number of “problem properties” north of West Seventh around St Clair Avenue right now. Several large street brawls have erupted in the past and weapons were involved, so that Betty became involved on behalf of the Federation right away. A big meeting was held so that all the neighbors had a chance to explain the patterns that disturbed them to police, the city attorney, and the county attorney all at once so that everyone knew what the situation was.
What has made a difference for these disturbances is how committed the neighbors have been to solving the problem. “We know it’s difficult and there’s a lot of work to do across the city,” said Mary Hanson. “We want to be the assistants that do the legwork.” That legwork includes reaching out to the landlords who own the buildings and letting them know what’s happening on their properties — most of whom were very responsive and took steps immediately. The neighbors have also been careful to call police — using the address where the problem is occurring and not their own — and logging their calls.
There are still issues to be taken care of in the neighborhood and residents are still not happy. But there have been far fewer incidents with the small number of houses that have been the base for a small number of people that made life miserable for everyone. As we move into cooler weather the problems are likely to diminish but not go away. The neighbors will stay on top of things and make sure that their quality of life isn’t wrecked by a small number of people who don’t have the same respect for the neighborhood everyone else does.
More than anything, residents have to understand that these can be dealt with — and the sooner everyone gets organized, the better. If nothing else, it will help to talk to Betty if you think there is a “problem property.” Get to know your neighbors and talk about what bugs you openly and respectfully, and if they are as concerned as you are you may have something. You are the ones who will make a difference, working together, so that is always the first step. Don’t forget to talk to the people you might be having a problem with, however, because they may not know that they were bothering you.
These problems can always be worked out no matter how frustrating they seem. One on one, person to person, neighborhood conflicts big and small are always solvable. If it gets to be too much for you to handle alone, talk to your neighbors and ask the Federation for help.