Fwd: Ann Arbor: blaming the homeless

Manfred Theis (manfredtheis@hotmail.com)
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 14:13:52 PST


--------- Forwarded Message ---------

DATE: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 21:16:37
From: American Homeless Society <usahomeless@hotmail.com>
To: AHS-L@AMERICAN.EDU

Wheeler Park crime draws concern

Tuesday, November 17, 1998

By JOHN BARTON
NEWS STAFF REPORTER

The recent drop in temperatures has meant dropoff
in visitors to Wheeler Park on Ann Arbor's near
north side, much to the relief of area residents
who say the park was a summer-long source of
illegal activity.

"This summer was absolutely horrendous," said
Steven Cattell, who lives near the park. "There
was gambling and prostitution. We had drug
dealers, and people urinating in public. It was
not a place you'd want your kids to go to.

"We took out some of the picnic tables hoping that
would cut down the number of people coming to the
park. That didn't have much of an effect, and then
we began considering whether we should tear down
the pavilion."

That's when Cattell and others decided to ask the
city for help in cleaning up the park. A meeting
on the issue will be held Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
in the conference room at the downtown fire
station, where area residents will air their
concerns to representatives of the Parks and
Recreation Department and the Police Department.

"What we are dealing with is mainly homeless
people from the shelters," Cattell said, "but they
are making the park unsuitable for us to enjoy,
and we have to send out a message that we are not
going to accept that kind of activity."

Deputy Police Chief Sherry Woods has been working
with Cattell and his neighbors, but points out
that the park is totally in the open, and that
makes it extremely difficult to patrol.

"They can see us coming, and they can see us
leaving," Woods said. "There are problems down
there, and I understand their concerns. We have
tried to address many of the issues they've
raised, and we were able to improve things toward
the end of the summer."

Cattell agrees, and says area residents are not
complaining that the Police Department has been
unresponsive to their concerns.

"We started seeing more police officers," Cattell
said, "and that helped discourage some of the
activity, but only as long as the officers were
there.

"We see this as a citywide problem because even if
the police do manage to clean things up here, it's
going to mean a problem somewhere else in the
city. We believe this is an issue that the entire
community is going to have to deal with."

Woods and Police Chief Carl Ent plan to attend
Wednesday's meeting, and will be outlining plans
for dealing with criminal activity in the park.

"We are taking these concerns very seriously,"
Woods said, "and we will be addressing each of the
issues that have been brought up. We think things
improved toward the end of the summer, but we also
acknowledge there is a lot of work that has to be
done."

John Barton covers police and court news. He can
be reached at 994-6852.

Copyright 1998 Michigan Live Inc.


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