Friday, April 3, 2009

Neighborhoods: Sometimes small victories seem HUGE!

Last weekend our block had a victory of sorts, "IT" moved out of the neighborhood over last weekend.

"IT" was a registered sex offender and heroin addict who had moved into the neighborhood last fall, before we bought our house across the street. A family member of his had purchased the house and installed him there, no doubt in an attempt to get him out of their own house. He was not so affectionately called "crazy pants" by the neighbors, as he would, in his often drug induced state, go up an down the street, yelling incoherently at everyone and sometime exposing himself to passersby.

I was having none of this behavior in my neighborhood! My first 'encounter' with "crazy pants" was about 2 weeks after we bought our house and I was cleaning the retaining wall up in front of our house, removing years of unattended weeds. He was, apparently in one of his rarer "semi-sober' moments, and he came up to me wanting to know if I had any work for him and stated he was " skilled stone mason" and could fix our cracked retaining wall.

I already knew his story, and I looked at him and I said matter of factly " There are two kind of people I have no use for, sex offenders and drug addicts. I don't like them and more importantly I don't tolerate them." I held up my cell phone and showed him the display " You know what this phone number is?" He had a puzzled look on his face. "It's the number for your probation officer and this next number is the police, I have them both on speed dial...You need to get your worthless self back across the street and go back into your house, because we are done with this conversation"

It took a few moments for his permanently drug impaired mind to comprehend what I said. He turned and I could hear him mumbling and grumbling and cursing under his breath the whole way home. He went inside and did not show his face the rest of that day! A line in the sand was drawn and I didn't back down, he did.

It was like a game I would often wonder when we would arrive on the weekends to work on the house. How long it would be before I would call the police, and I did, after all that is what they are there for, to protect the public safety. But after a while I didn't have to call, the neighbors on the block, seeing that: yes you can call the police, and yes, they will haul him away ( if only for the night because of our revolving justice system). They began to call on their own. During the week as well when we weren't around. Neighbors would tell me when we arrived how many times he was hauled away during the week. His drug buddies stopped coming around as much as they apparently didn't want to be around when he got arrested. The house was no longer 'party central' on the weekends.

The neighborhood set a standard. When he didn't meet that standard, when he has high or loud, or unruly, the police were called. And it wasn't just behavioral issues. Since "trash" is trashy he didn't keep his yard clean. One of the neighbors called to complain about the junk and litter and he was ticketed for littering. One day he was out , high as usual, cleaning up the litter and screaming and yelling at all his "enemies' in the neighborhood. One of the neighbors called the police and off to jail he went again. He bought a junk car and started stripping it, He was cited again for an inoperable vehicle and littering.

When we learned he didn't have drivers license, and he would leave in his vehicle on his way to no doubt buy drugs , the neighbors would call the police again! Eventually, I guess because his family got tired of getting it out of impound, he lost his vehicle. Like most drug addicts, he didn't pay his bills and the power got turned off. He of course pulled the meter and got the power back on and , you guessed it, the neighbors called the utility company and it was shut it off again!

It was much like a chess game, and the neighbors had all the good moves. Last weekend as we watched him load the accumulated boxes of his trashy belongings you could see the smiles on neighbors faces.

The neighborhood IS changing, people who used to hide in their homes, feel empowered and sit on their porches now, they are planting flowers. Its OUR neighborhood now.

So last weekend was a "small victory" but to us it felt HUGE! The residents who had sat idly by in their homes, afraid, weren't afraid any more. They stood up for themselves, for their families and for their neighborhood, they realized that yes there really is a neighborhood now.

What will happen to that house? Well we don't know, but clearly the person who owns it, knows that the neighborhood means business and they may think twice about whom they let move in. Word is out that its not "cool to deal" on our block and we don't see some people that we used to walking around. Cockroaches don't like light and the sun is beginning to shine once again in our neighborhood!

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