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The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him: adam.belz@gazcomm.com

Riding from Anamosa to fight crime in Wellington

On my liveblog last night, somebody suggested the city should offer incentives to get police officers to move into the Wellington Heights and Mound View Neighborhoods.

The commenter thought that would make officers more invested in these communities, and build trust toward police.

This raises a question: How many police officers live in the neighborhoods that are subject to the recent crackdown in Cedar Rapids?

“Zilcho,” says Dale Todd, a former city commissioner who lives in southeast Cedar Rapids and is active in neighborhood issues.

I’ve asked the police department to give me a list of the home addresses of all police officers. (I don’t want the names, and I don’t want to publish the list. I just want to put dots on a big map that shows where police officers live.) We’ll see if I can get the list.

A lack of trust between residents and police is an oft-cited phenomenon and something Chief Greg Graham says he’s committed to combatting.

But getting police officers to move into these neighborhoods has been tried before, and it failed. I know that several police officers live far from Cedar Rapids — in towns like Anamosa, Mount Vernon, etc. (Disclaimer: Lest anyone accuse me of hypocrisy on this, I’ll admit it. I live near Walker, 30 miles from Cedar Rapids.)

The MidAmerica Housing Partnership, City of Cedar
Rapids and Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association worked together on something called the Cop on the Block program in the late 1990s.

MAHP purchased a three-bedroom house at 1501 Bever Ave. SE for $48,230 and spent $30,000 renovating it. The estimated value of the house was $78,000, but a police officer could have bought it for $55,000.

Nobody bought it. Some say officers were concerned they’d have to be on call 24 hours a day.

Russ Oviatt, president of the Wellington neighborhood association at the time, said an officer wouldn’t have to be on duty all the time to have a positive effect on the neighborhood.

“When officers live in the neighborhood there is an excellent
opportunity for mutual empathy for not only the neighborhood’s
positives, challenges and opportunities, but also those of the
police officer and his or her family,” Oviatt said in 1997.

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Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Beth Malicki says:

    Hey Adam,
    I asked Chief Greg Graham if any CR officers live in Wellington Heights after last night’s community forum, and he said “I don’t think so.” Graham told me he believed an officer did live in that neighborhood but that officer has since retired.

    Thank you for live blogging the forum. I wish we could have had another hour to address more of the concerns of the people in the audience, as well as the on-line commenters.

    As one of the moderators for the forum I earnestly hope that forum was the first of many. Based on the response in the crowd, we’ve only touched the surface.

    Beth Malicki
    KCRG-TV9 News

  2. Jason says:

    I can’t say that I blame the officers. How many other jobs dictate where you should live as part of your job? Do most people really want to live right near where they work?

    Personally, I like having a nice separation between home and work.

    I’m all in favor of restoring some sanity to neighborhoods, but I don’t think this is the answer.

  3. Jim Cannon says:

    I don’t blame any of the Officers for not living in an area where they have to patrol.If they did,then they’d have no off duty time at all,as their neighbors would be bugging them everytime any little thing came up.I don’t think it really matters where they live.Like you said,you don’t live in Cedar Rapids.Why not,this is where you work.As far as doing a map to show where the Officers do live,who cares.
    Do you want me to let you know where I live?Same difference.If you’re going to push this thing about Officers living where they work,then I’d like to see you rent a U-Haul and move into Cedar Rapids.

  4. Seth says:

    I think placing a precinct house in or near areas of the city that produce the most amount of calls is a more reasonable approach, and will do more good in the long run, than trying to dictate where someone lives.

    An alternative idea would be to set up something akin to a firehouse, allow police officers to live there a few days a week – with regular beats walked by the stationed officers supplementing their vehicle patrols.

    This would allow them more exposure to the neighborhood, allow them to respond quicker to calls, and perhaps increasing the visibility/accessibility would build some of the trust that is obviously lacking.

    Just an idea.. not sure if anything like this is tried anywhere else or how difficult it would be to staff.

  5. Mike Coleman says:

    The suggestion assumes that any parental concerns an officer may have are eclipsed by a responsibility to their job. You might also argue the idea is just a bit insulting towards police officers, in so much that they are willing to potentially downgrade in neighborhood safety just for sake of some monetary “incentive.”
    I wonder whether some people’s commitment to their own neighborhood has truly weakened so greatly that they feel it necessary to have cops living in the neighborhood in order to make changes. Hmmm…

  6. […] Board earlier this year to state their opposition to licensing landlords. This was shortly after an April 14 community forum at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE, in Cedar Rapids’ Wellington […]

  7. Becky says:

    I strongly suspect those posting negative responses to the suggestion don’t live here in Wellington Heights. Housing in Wellington Heights is a mixed bag. Many homes are stunning and well kept while others (generally grouped together within a handfull of streets) are run down rentals that attract low lifes. There is awide range of residents living here too. We have artists, professionals, skilled tradesmen, community activists, and yes, some bad elements that make the news regulary. I think it’s a great idea to offer incentives to draw police officers into the neighborhoods here. For starters, we all can acknowledge that police officers don’t get paid enough for what they do. I should think that a nice home at a discount might be appreciated by some members of our police force. To say that it would be asking them to sacrifice their families to live here is a bit silly, considering my family lives here with no incentives whatsoever, we love our beautiful home and our neighbors are good decent people. The police officer wouldn’t have to live in the seediest portion of Wellington Heights to bring benifit to all areas. Let’s face it, if one police officer lived in the area it would bring more passing patrol officers into the neighborhood to make sure their buddy’s house was safe. We already have excellent officers assigned to Wellington Heights, and their names and contact info is in every Wellington Heights newsletter that goes out. I don’t believe any officer living in the area would be hounded, as the people who watch out for the neighborhood (and call the police when something hinky is going on) have the appropriate names and numbers on speed dial already. Please consider this is one of many suggestions/efforts being made an attempt to improve and save this beautiful neighborhood.

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