Crime, decay feed off each other, duh! [Archive] - Glock Talk


View Full Version : Crime, decay feed off each other, duh!

02-09-2009, 05:44
This Jackson, MS man recognizes the symptoms but not the root problem. When voters stop electing politicians who promise to "bring home the bacon" and when citizens start taking some responsibility for their own neighborhoods and stop tolerating crime, it will go away.

Crime, decay feed off each other, officials say
February 9, 2009

The former Houston Superette at Enoch and Pillars streets is the bane of the Georgetown Neighborhood Association (in Jackson, MS).

The neighborhood's leader, Perry Robinson, said he has pleaded with city officials for at least a year to tear it down. It's not just that the former business looks bad, but it's that bad things go on inside, he said.

"It's made this a really bad area for crime. We've got a school a block away, and that's something that could harbor a robber," Robinson said. The L-shaped building that once housed a coin-operated laundry, a pool hall and deli counter has been closed since about 2000. Its windows and doors have been boarded up several times, but each time the plywood has been ripped away. Trash, beer bottles and broken televisions litter the property.

Neighbors, most of them elderly, say they are scared of what goes on there, even during the day. Last month, Ray Charles Chaffee was departing his mother's house across the street when a young man stuck a gun in his face. Chaffee managed to drive away unharmed, only to fall victim to another armed robbery the next week while checking on his mother's neighbor around the corner.

"I walked out on the porch, and a man jumped the fence. He started yelling, 'What? You're not scared?' and pointed a 9mm (handgun) at me," Chaffee said. "I tried to run, but I tripped and fell. I gave him my cash, but he also wanted my billfold and my cell phone."

Chaffee said both times the robbers got away by running into or behind the abandoned building.

Besides robberies, Jackson's vacant structures have been venues for homicides, fires, drug sales and prostitution. And with roughly 12,300 of them, law enforcement officials say they are a major factor contributing to crime, especially in the city's older neighborhoods.

"It's a cancer," Police Chief and Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said.

Discussion of the relationship between derelict property and crime usually brings up the same question: Does crime lead to abandoned properties and declining neighborhoods, or do abandoned properties and declining neighborhoods bring in crime?

It's a chicken-or-egg argument, McMillin says. But which came first doesn't matter. The problem now is that crime and decay feed off each other.

"It's a symbiotic relationship," he said. "One certainly affects the other."

That is one of the reasons JPD created a fifth precinct to encompass the downtown business district and Midtown neighborhood - an area with a high concentration of crime and vacant buildings. The precinct's mission is to stabilize the area through patrols so new growth and renovation can take place.

Already this year, Jackson police have recorded a homicide at a vacant house on Flag Chapel Road. A man was shot and then set on fire inside the house, which was in the process of being renovated.

And in 2008, there were four homicides that happened in or near vacant houses.

# Brandi Hillman, 35, of Florida was shot to death in March outside an abandoned house in the 100 block of Road of Remembrance, and her body was hidden in a shallow hole.

# Latasha Jackson, 30, was found shot to death in the yard of a vacant house near Lawson Street and Eminence Row in July.

# A few days later, 18-year-old Michael Unger was shot, stabbed and set on fire in an abandoned house on Rosslyn Avenue.

# Lester Cole Jr., 23, was found on Nov. 24 inside his childhood home on Brookhollow Drive. The house had been vacant for at least a couple of years.

Jackson police officer Rosemary Harper has been on the force 13 years and has spent the last year patrolling an area of Precinct 4 that encompasses rundown warehouses and rows of crumbling shotgun shacks.

During a ride through the neighborhood in December, Harper pointed to a white house on Taylor Street. Its peeling paint and unruly yard stood out among the modest, well-kept homes.

A few weeks before, some young men had broken into another house on the street and used the empty, white house to stash the goods, Harper said.

"They see a vacant house, and they take over the property. They're not homeless; they're drug sellers," Harper said. "If (forsaken property) don't drive people out of the neighborhood, the dope boys will."

There have been at least five fires this year in vacant buildings in Jackson, and at least seven in the last calendar year that happened within two miles of the historic Farish Street district.

Chief Fire Investigator Greg Travis said vacant-house fires are particularly prevalent during the winter.

"There are a lot this time of year. Homeless people get into houses or businesses that aren't boarded up or secured by the owner. They start fires to keep warm, and they're left unattended," he said.

Other common causes of vacant-structure fires are arson and copper thieves lighting fires inside to melt down the stolen metal before selling it.

Charlene Major moved into a house in a Habitat for Humanity development along Wood Street and Kevin Garnett Court in July 2007. She and her 73-year-old mother fled New Orleans' Ninth Ward the day before Hurricane Katrina ravaged it in 2005.

02-10-2009, 08:51