Friday, October 10, 2008

Dohoney: City addressing Washington Park issues

Cleaning up crime and nuisance issues around Washington Park is a matter of "determination, focus and time", writes Cincinnati City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr in a letter to the Washington Park Home Owners Association.

The letter is in response to a communication made by eight members of the association in which they said that things would have to change in and around the park for homeownership to flourish in Over-the-Rhine.

In the letter, they allege that the park and the sidewalks around it aren't being adequately maintained and policed.

Dohoney says that the City has been diligently working to make inroads into the concerns that the homeowners raised, citing projects such as the Central Parkway streetscape, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, and the work of 3CDC and numerous developers on the Gateway Quarter as proof of the City's dedication to improving the area.

"Concerning the short-term aspect of your request, over the past two years the Police Department has significantly increased its patrols in and around the park," he says. "In 2006, the Park Police unit made 81 arrests in Washington Park; in 2007, 222 arrests were made and in 2008, 297 arrests have been made to date."

In addition, the Park unit and the Cincinnati Police Department, including the Vortex unit, have made over 1,400 arrests around the 1200-1400 blocks of Elm and Race streets, Dohoney says.

He also says that park and police staffs have tried to crack down on other nuisance issues in Washington Park.

"The Park Board has also reaffirmed its policy of not allowing food and clothing distribution in the park, which contributed to on-going health and safety issues within the park," Dohoney says.

Dohoney adds that it's not that City ordinances and park regulations are unclear, but that the presence of social agencies in the area is leading to many of the problems.

"We have found that the issue is not how clear the regulations are, or the alleged lack of enforcement, but the social pressures on the park and its surroundings," he says. "As you know, the vicinity of the park is where many social agencies are located, creating some challenges that are continuously addressed in partnership with these agencies. Our citizens using these social agencies are often the first victims of the few criminal elements that take advantage of their miseries."

And to the suggestion that Park Board employees should act as the eyes and ears of the police, Dohoney says that this practice could be quite dangerous.

"Your inference of Park's staff being eyes and ears to deter criminal activity is always challenging, and all city employees manage these issues daily," he says. "It is not wise to assign Park staff with law enforcement duties. They are not trained for that and they do not carry firearms. Using park staff as police liaisons will very quickly be known by the criminal elements using the park and may result in making the park dangerous to maintain our custodial presence."

Previous reading on BC:
Washington Park homeowners 'no longer willing to accept' park nuisance (9/10/08)