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I was fortunate enough to be part of a photo shoot at the Yankee Air Museum this summer before it burned to the ground. It is a significant loss to the local history of the area, but to be honest, I’m surprised it didn’t burn down while I was there. People should be wondering why it took so long for this to happen.
The highlight of tonight was the Historic East Side Neighborhood Association. It was a blast. If you recall, Ypsilanti Police Captain Matt Harshberger and Ward 3 City Council member Barry LaRue were guest speakers. I had previously insinuated that I was going to ask the hard-hitting questions and use the meeting as a launching pad for my official 2006 City Council campaign (or Mayor’s office if things keep getting worse here). Out of respect to my neighbor who runs the HESNA, I behaved but asked tough questions. I didn’t sell out and Kate didn’t publicly sob over my actions.
To keep this readable, I’ll break this up into two posts. One for Capt. Harshberger and one for Mr. LaRue.
Capt. Harshberger was the first to speak. He talked about the crime situation in our area (minimal) and what we could do to prevent becoming victims of theives and murderous bands of roving lunatics. His speech was disasterous. He scared most of the women to death and basically said that we would all be victims of some crime sooner or later. Not the kind of stuff you want to hear from those protecting and serving. I think his message had a good core — that we have a large role in our own safety — but let’s say he should have practiced his speech a couple of times.
He then spoke at length about prostitution. Harriet Street has been a “zone” for almost two years now. That means that anyone arrested for various crimes like prostitution and larceny in the Harriet Street zone is not allowed back there until their court case has been adjudicated. This can be good in that it cuts down on the density of such crimes in the zone. This can be bad because it pushes the crime elsewhere. Capt. Harshberger really wanted to sell the idea of these zones working, but no matter what he said, it came across the opposite. I asked for empirical data on crime pre-zone and post-zone. Are the number of arrests for prostitution city-wide increasing or decreasing? I would think police like areas where they know crime exists because they can patrol those areas. When crime spreads out, it become harder to police. He disagreed, but I think I had the support of most people in the room.
This talk of hot zones is important because the Police Department is considering making parts of Michigan Avenue zones like Harriet Street. This is a very bad idea because of what I mentioned before, but also because it will push the prostitution into my neighborhood. That’s a very elitist view, but I mean it in the most sincere way. The odds of finding a prostitute at the corner of North Grove and East Michigan Avenue at any time of the day are excellent. If these women are arrested and not allowed to return, they are likely to move just out of those zones and up near my house. Again, I don’t want to imply that crime is fine if it’s not in my neighborhood. I want to stress that known areas of crime make it easier for the police to do their jobs.
I wanted to ask for an update on the Dennis Barger incident, but lost my nerve. It wasn’t really the time or place for such a question, but we are owed an answer. The Police have a miserable reputation here among residents (and with my few dealings with them). This meeting did a little to mend fences.
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