Lincoln crime prevention meeting
Almost 100 people were in attendance at tonight’s crime prevention meeting hosted by Alderperson Kevin Mathewson, representative for the 8th district. Alderpersons Steve Bostrom (12th district) and Jan Michalski (3rd district) co-sponsored the meeting. Residents of these three districts were encouraged to attend, but all Kenosha residents were invited. The meeting was organized to discuss public safety in the Uptown area, and it was held at the Lincoln Park Building, in Kenosha. Other alderpersons present at the meeting were David Bogdala, Rocco LaMacchia, and G. John Ruffolo.
The Deputy Chief of Police Daniel Miskinis and both crime prevention officers (Jeff Wamboldt and Ron Francis) were in attendance, along with a gang prevention officer, to listen to input and answer questions.
Mathewson opened the meeting by saying that the purpose was to send a message that we will not tolerate people jeopardizing the neighborhoods. Bostrom said that “we want to keep the lid on the shenanigans.” With so many people here in attendance tonight, he said, “it seems like all of you want to be part of the solution.” Michalski said that “we have no magic wand to wave to solve problems. But, part of the solution, is I’m looking at it (meaning all of the people present). It’s not that difficult to be part of a Neighborhood Watch group. You just have to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood, watch for anything that looks out of the ordinary, and report it. You can call your alderman, or you can step up and be the solution yourself.”
Mathewson said that with crime in Kenosha down, the Kenosha Police Department lost some state beat patrol funding. Miskinis said, “But, the police department is progressive. We have bicycle patrols, motorcycle patrols, beat patrols, and undercover operations. But, the police can’t solve everything on their own. It has to start in the community.”
One resident thought that the major problem was the amount of rental units in the city. People buy up cheap homes, and they have no idea who they’re renting to. The people have no respect for the community. Mathewson said that the city is trying to become more strict with landlords. “It’s important to screen people. There have been some rumors of new legislation.”
Residents were hesitant to making formal written complaints due to their fear of retaliation on the part of the people being complained against. Michalski said, “If an alderman calls for you, your name will remain anonymous. Signed complaints go on record. It forces landlords to get involved, or pay fines.” Mathewson offered to come over to a resident’s home if called, witness the loud music or whatever complaint was at hand, and make the call for the resident if they are hesitant to do so. Of course, if the police officer hears the loud music, he/she can write the ticket themselves. It’s only if the police officer doesn’t witness the violation that citizens need to come forward and make written, signed complaints. “Police officers can’t write a ticket for something they didn’t witness themselves,” said Wamboldt.
Bostrom, whose profession is real estate, said that “its important to educate landlords in order to get rid of nuisance tenants.” Michalski said that Alderperson Patrick Juliana was working on an ordinance change, although he hasn’t seen it yet. “But these things take time,” said Bostrom. “The examples I’ve seen of landlord licenses are difficult to enforce. There are many legalities behind them.” Michalski further explained, “There are property rights issues. There are state and federal laws. Even landlords, even bad landlords, have rights.”
The recent shooting at Roosevelt Road and 23rd Avenue was brought up several times. Another resident offered his home to police if they wanted to puts cameras on his building or park in his driveway. He stated that the Kenosha police have been outstanding.
Another resident wanted to know if the HELP loan program was still in place with the sale of the American Motors Community Credit Union (AMCCU). Bogdala said that it was, and he explained the details of the program. People can borrow up to $7,500, have two years with no interest, and can then defer their payments over 10 years. Contact your alderman or the city clerk’s office for more details.
Other issues people brought up had to do with landlords that don’t care, dispatchers with attitudes, vacant buildings, backyards overrun with weeds and garbage, loud music, and profanity.
Francis said that dispatchers don’t decide where to send the police. “All calls are recorded, and we can go into the supervisors and pull the recordings. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the time, people are doing their jobs.”
One resident said that “we need less politics and more action.”
Bogdala talked about the need for more police officers. Last year, three police officers were added to the 2012 budget. Bogdala quoted police chief John Morrissey in saying that, “For a city of Kenosha’s size, we need 20 more police officers.” They decided to stagger the start dates of the new officers so as not to put such a great burden on the taxpayers.
There was a call for citizens helping out on patrols, but Francis was against the idea. There’s one word for that, and that is “Florida. That guy put himself in harm’s way. We don’t want you to do that. Just be the extra eyes in the community that we need. My partner, Jeff Wamboldt, likes the idea of volunteer patrols. But, all we’re asking is that you pay attention. Keep your eyes open. If you see something suspicious, use the non-emergency number. The worst thing that could happen is that you’ve brought a uniformed officer to your neighborhood, which just might deter someone from committing a crime.”
Wamboldt said that if you hear loud music, get the license plate number of the vehicle. Bostrom said, while holding up his cell phone, “Take a picture. Most cell phones have a camera.” Then, if a complaint is made, the police can issue the owner of the vehicle a ticket. “Or,” as Mathewson suggested, “record your neighbor’s loud music.”
Another resident by the name of Aaron Petroski, a landlord and a former Marine, stated that “we live in a society of blatant disregard for respect. As soon as the police pull away, you wouldn’t believe the barrage of filthy language.” He pleaded and begged people to sign complaints. “Make it a competitive game among neighbors,” he suggested. He does background checks on his tenants and has consulted with a lawyer on an in-depth lease agreement, one that is much more involved than the two-page lease template one can purchase on-line. “In my lease agreement, I have it so that I can take a visual and physical walk-through the property on the 1st and 15th of each month.”
Yet another resident said that, “If we sit in our homes and do nothing, it’s like being prisoners in our own homes.”
Wamboldt encouraged residents “to be vigilant and call the police even about the small stuff. It stops bigger problems from happening (the ‘broken window theory’).”
A resident wanted to know, “If I sign a complaint, will I have to appear in court?” Wamboldt replied that, “You may have to appear in court if the person receives a ticket and wants to fight it. But, that happens very rarely. However, if the person just pays the ticket, that’s the end of it.”
Michalski said that the city has a zero tolerance for graffiti. Bogdala said that, “If you have garbage in your backyard, call the Health Department. They move slow, but they will act.”
Another resident wanted to know what the curfew for kids was. Francis replied that it was 10:30 pm Sunday through Thursday for kids ages 17 and younger, and midnight on Friday and Saturday. “If you see a group of kids out on the streets late at night, and you think they’re less than 17, call.”
The last lady called upon stated, “I challenge you all to change the demographics of this group. We need more minorities here.”
There was an e-mail sign-up list for those who wanted to receive more information on future Neighborhood Watch meetings. Residents were also encouraged to stay after and talk individually with the alderpersons or members of the police department.