Geographic-based plan to target crime, graffiti

The county prosecutor’s office expects to roll out a new geographic-based crime prevention plan that would first address quality of life issues in high-crime areas like graffiti and dilapidated housing.

It’s based on the “broken windows” theory that depressing neighborhood conditions like boarded up homes and graffiti lead to higher rates of crime, and intends to bring various public and private agencies together to solve the problems, Prosecutor Andy Wilson told the Springfield News-Sun.

“The concept is, you identify your highest crime/quality of life issue areas in a town and then you basically coordinate your resources to address quality of life/criminal justice issues in that area,” Wilson said.

Still in its analysis and partner-building phase, Wilson expects the initiative to start this summer through a partnership with the city for graffiti eradication and other projects in partnership with religious institutions and businesses.

Wilson met with city officials on Friday about the use of a graffiti cleaning trailer the city recently acquired from the Clark County Waste Management District. City officials declined comment Friday until they had more time to discuss Wilson’s proposal.

There are people in a diversion program through his office who owe community service hours, he said, and the thought is those people would use the trailer to go in and clean graffiti in those areas.

And First Christian Church has offered 5,000 hours of community service from their membership this summer for projects yet to be named.

“So we want to make sure we are utilizing that in an efficient manner and basically getting everyone rowing in the same direction,” Wilson said.

But it won’t all be free. To help pay for it, an intern from Cedarville University will be identifying and applying for Department of Justice grants on behalf of the prosecutor’s office this summer.

The hope is that funding would pay for an assistant prosecutor, a community resource officer from Springfield Police Division, a probation officer, and others to defined geographic high crime areas, identified through a Wittenberg University class’s study completed this semester.

“So what it would look like is I would assign a prosecutor who would be responsible for everything in that geographic area, from juvenile graffiti to civil nuisance abatement to murders,” he said.

The Wittenberg Geographical Information Systems class, led by Geography Professor Olga Medvedkov, conducted a crime rate and neighborhood condition study of Springfield, and identified seven “at risk” sectors based on crime rates, graffiti and conditions of houses in those areas.

Two sectors of the city, which happen to be contiguous, stood out, said Wittenberg sophomore Andrew Ziminski.

Sectors 309 to the north and 402 to its south are together bound on the north by Snyder Park Road, to the east primarily along Plum Street, south along West Pleasant Street and west along Montgomery, Bell and North Western Avenues.

Those two areas will be the initial focus of the prosecutor’s implementation because they have the highest combined rates of dominant crimes including homicide, sexual offenses, robbery, prostitution, drug violations, domestic violence, assault, vandalism, burglaries and theft.

They saw about 2¾ cases of crime per parcel — about 3,200 cases among more than 1,150 parcels between 2010 and 2012, according to the study.

Further, the study pinpointed a focus area of action that crosses the boundary between both of those areas, and encompasses blocks within the approximate boundaries of North Street, Western, Lannert and Jefferson Street, according to data from the students’ study.

That area has the highest concentration of problem houses, graffiti, nuisances and resources for change that include social and religious institutions, Ziminski said.

A couple who resides in the 600 block of West Jefferson Street told the Springfield News-Sun they were happy to hear about the initiative.

A boarded up and dilapidated house at the corner of West Jefferson and South Yellow Springs streets is in plain view from Charley Jackson and Beverly Jones’ home’s front windows.

Jones said the house has fallen in disrepair over the last seven or eight years and has played host to prostitution.

And a garage nearby their home was tagged with graffiti two or three days ago, they said.

She said that overall, the neighborhood has been good in the nearly 30 years she’s lived there, but teenagers congregating on the block have become a problem.

As for the neighborhood, she had this message for fellow residents: “You need to to try to take pride in what you have and people need to take more control of their kids.”

“It’s not just crime, it’s not just ‘Hey let’s crack down on prostitution and drug trafficking,’ although that’s a big part of it,” Wilson said

“Let’s identify the condemned houses that need to be knocked down, the ones that aren’t yet condemned but could be condemned, lets file what civil actions we need to to get them condemned and then put the resources into cleaning those areas up.”

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