We met for the first time in over a year, and at a new, and very sweet location, the Reading Room of the Christian Science Church, 2425 East Third (that’s our side of 3rd Street, inside the neighborhood!). There were ten of us present, three of whom had not been participants in GANA before. A number of people had called to say that they could not make it due to other commitments.
The main impetus for the meeting was to discuss safety and security issues that have been arising in the neighborhood. To this end we invited the Bloomington Police Department to send a representative. Well, they sent two! Joe Qualters, who heads up neighborhood relations, and Blake Cunningham, who is one of the officers who regularly patrols our neighborhood.
Contact info for Qualters:
phone and voicemail: 349-3417
We decded that it would be best if there is one person in the neighborhood who is the liaison to the police department, and Jelene agreed to take that on. In emergencies of any kind however, we were instructed to not call the police but instead call 911.
We sent about an hour with these two men, and our discussion was extremely fruitful. First, we heard three important, and difficult to hear, stories:
1. One woman, present at the meeting, had been stalked a few weeks ago at about 11 p.m. when walking home (her car had broken down). She noticed a man in a big truck going slowly back and forth. He stopped ahead of her, got out. She decided not to go that way. But he kept coming, cutting across lawns towards her. A huge man, she said. She grew desperate. What to do? At the last minute a car drove between her and the man and she hailed the car, and got in.
2. Another woman at the meeting told about her partner’s experience: she had been driving home around ten o’clock at night. She noticed a big man on a bicycle. He got off his bicycle, and started furtively cutting across through the dark towards a young woman walking home. Then he stopped, ahead of the woman, hiding behind a tree on the other side of the road from where she was walking. The woman’s partner who saw this whole scenario turned around, drove up and parked her truck between the man hiding, and the young woman, until she got safely into her house.
3. Re: that party on Clark Street where shots were fired: the woman who lived next to that house was at the meeting, and told of being terrified. Her two young grandchildren were spending the night. More and more people started coming to that house, loud booming music, of course, and the crowd spilling into her back yard. Meanwhle, she was terrified to go outside and frantically trying to find her phone to call the police. Finally, at around 2 am when the shots were fired, she did find her phone, and called. Three patrol cars arrived within seconds, so she assumes someone else had already called.
In the first two cases, of stalking, the women involved did not call the police. We spent quite a bit of time looking at the way we tend NOT to call the police, because we don’t want to bother them unnecessarily. But as Joe Qualters pointed out, “This is our JOB. And you are our eyes and ears!”
We do have to be aware that the police have priorities. There are a minimum of ten patrol cars out on patrol at any point, covering the four quadrants of the city. Parking issues, for example, do not have high priority. But loud parties, and certainly violence of any kind, or dangerous situations like stalking, do. Any little bit of information helps. Sometimes a description of someone in one possibly criminal act will help identify the perp in another act, so that they can see a pattern. If there are parties, where the police are called, and they come and warn the people there, and the party revs back up after they leave, then, Qualter insists, call the police back. They need to know when a warning was not enough. They will come back and issue a citation. First offense, $50, and it goes up from there.
VANDALISM: Qualters said that often what happens is when the students go on breaks, folks that they don’t know but who have come to their parties go in and rob them, especially looking for small electronics. So if neighbors keep watch over students’ houses during breaks, it would be helpful to the police.
(A.K.: We might look again at the Neighborhood Watch Program: http://www.ci.bloomington.mn.us/cityhall/dept/police/specops/crime_prevention/neiwatch.htm)
NOISE: go to http://bloomington.in.gov/documents/viewDocument.php?document_id=829 to read about it. (The discussion we had that night felt unclear to me.) Noise problems? Call 339-4477.
PARKING AND TRAFFIC ON HILLSDALE: We all agreed that once the Bypass is finished, traffic should slow at least somewhat. Some talk about resurrecting the idea of speed bumps, though one woman said she likes the idea of parked cars on both sides of the street, because that slows down traffic. (I agree!)
SPECIAL NEEDS AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS: The police department has a program to address this for people who may need help, for example, by letting the police know where an extra key is stored if they need to get in to help them in some kind of an emergency.
The police agreed to email us pdfs of safety tips of various kinds.
After about an hour, the police left and we briefly discussed one other item on our agenda, that of painting the electrical box at the corner of 3rd and Hillsdale. We have been given money for art supplies, and Georgia will write a proposal for a Small and Simple Grant due February 1st. Jim and Georgia agreed to work on getting a few artists to sketch the design that might work out, email these sketches to our GANA list for feedback and then select an artist who will be paid by the Small and Simple Grant.
Other business: Jim agreed to take over the GANA list-serve from Jane. Ann agreed to revamp and update the GANA website.
Our next meeting will be in early January, though the Executive Committee (Ann and Georgia and anyone else who wants to be on it) will meet before then.