Monday, May 4, 2015

City steps up police presence in Centennial Park

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 4:42 PM

The Little Rock Police Department has assigned an extra patrol to the Centennial Park area after a complaint by a property owner got Mayor Mark Stodola's attention. 

Paul Dodds, who lives on West 17th Street and Park and whose company Urban Frontier LLC has fixed up 10 properties for sale and rent and owns several more — including a couple near the park, emailed Stodola, the city Board of Directors and the police chief on Sunday. Stodola today directed City Manager Bruce Moore to increase "directed patrols" in the park area and "have Entergy light this place up like it is daytime. With summer break upon us we need to stifle this activity before it gets worse." 

Centennial, which is bound by 16th and 17th streets on the north and south and Wolfe and Battery on the east and west, was a gathering spot for the Crips street gang in the 1980s and '90s, as documented in the film "Bangin' in the Rock." A visit to the park today found several cars parked and men dressed in blue — the gang's color — hanging around one of the Wolfe Street entrances to the park, where Centennial School was once located and where its bell tower still stands. 

A woman on the Battery Street side of the park — the quiet side, she said — told me, "They tell me it belongs to the Crips," referring to the park. She said she had heard someone say the area was "going back like it was in the '80s." She said she does not wear red — the color of rival street gang the Bloods — just to be on the safe side. "You just have to live with it and pray and don't be scared."

Dodds' email is on the jump.

On Saturday evening May 2, Wolfe Street east of Centennial Park was out of control, yet again. On May 3, the party continued with perhaps 15 people drinking in public, loitering and cars blocking traffic. This ongoing illegal party is just the way it is these days. Please stop it.

In addition to intensified police patrols, please install security cameras in the Centennial Park tower and at each end of Wolfe Street between 15th and 16th. There are almost no lights in the Park or on Wolfe St, as the party goers shoot them out. These, and the cameras, must be checked and replaced as needed. Several dilapidated rent houses and a burn out on Wolfe St. facing the park may be part of the party. A SWAT team including code enforcement, child protective services and the police must ensure that all these houses are safe and on the right side of the law. They are not now. Please reclaim this street from the criminals who now dominate it. This is not rocket science. It just takes City will and action.

In addition to increasing patrols on this street, I urge the City also to reach out to Arkansas Childrens’ Hospital and Arkansas Baptist College, copied here, asking them to extend their patrols to cover this block of Wolfe Street until it is stabilized. The chaos hurts them too. I am also copying the Presidents of CHINI and of WANA.

Over the past decade, I have invested over $1,600,000 in the Central High Historic District where I live. I just bought several homes within earshot of the Park, with plans to invest $250,000 more to restore them. I was not aware of how bad Centennial Park has become. I then heard mid-day shots and screaming in the park, right after I bought a house on it. I hesitate to invest while the gang party continues. Please provide the public safety and order I need to do my work.

While the area has improved, all around me are still empty houses with broken windows, alleys filled with trash and cars with flat tires. I placed multiple 311 requests over six months to clean up a filthy alleyway on 13th Street, behind one of my houses. All were ignored. Some nice 311 employees recently told me that they never cleaned alleys in this neighborhood, as a matter of policy. Here, your city alleys here are in deplorable condition. Apparently you feel no obligation to clean them. You should.

Unsafe and unsecured properties can wait for years without fines or court action, while the city fails to board buildings to ensure their safety. Needless demolitions of historic buildings continue at taxpayer expense. The City’s overly restrictive notice requirements and refusal to use its full legal tools, let scofflaw owners away scott free. My neighbors and I are left with the burden both of their neglect, and of the city’s sluggish and often poor decisions.

My multiple calls, visits and attempts to get the City to pay attention and bring real change rarely bring any response, and never quickly. It’s really discouraging. While the gradual restoration of the Central High area is happening, it happens largely despite City Hall, rather than because of it. Good government can and does make a difference. Little Rock needs to do better.

Please, do whatever you can in your power to take Centennial Park from the gangs, our alleys from the trash heap and our historic homes from risk of demolition. Please make it safe for me to invest, and us to live in peace. Only you can get this done. Thank you for your efforts and attention.

City Director Joan Adcock also responded to Dodds, writing that it was "unacceptable" and she would bring it up at tomorrow's city board meeting.

In another email to neighbors and downtown activists, Dodds wrote, 

The low point for me came yesterday when a rather unhelpful policeman came to visit me in response to my repeated calls. He was full of “it’s not my department” and “we are powerless to do anything” comments, and spat repeatedly in my yard as we spoke. When I asked about sending in undercover narcotics agents to help break up the ongoing narco-prostitute street fair on that section of Wolfe Street, his response was concern that any agent could be at risk of assault. 


click to enlarge Dodds at a duplex he will renovate at the corner of 17th and Wolfe — if the activity in the park slows down.
  • Dodds at a duplex he will renovate at the corner of 17th and Wolfe — if the activity in the park slows down.
Dodds said he was on the phone with his insurance agent at a house he bought recently on 16th Street, directly across from the park, and heard shots. ("Not good when you are talking to your insurance agent," he quipped.) He thinks an easy first step the city should do would be to remove the chain link fence around the park, which he believes makes it easier for groups to claim the park as their own by loitering at the entrances.

The developer, who advocates for city measures to more quickly deal with abandoned properties before they reach the point of no return, moved into neighborhood in 2004. He has used state and federal historic tax credits and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program that helps people buy first-time houses at affordable costs. Several of the properties Dodds has bought were crack houses; he just bought one house at the corner of Wolfe and 17th Street for $673. He'll remove the siding down to the original clapboard for historic tax credits; he expects to invest about $100,000 in it. You can see a couple of properties he has bought and will fix up for rental or sale at this page on his website.

click to enlarge Marcus Holt at his house on 17th Street: He, too, is concerned about what's happening on Wolfe Street.
  • Marcus Holt at his house on 17th Street: He, too, is concerned about what's happening on Wolfe Street.
Today's trip to the area reminded me of an encounter I had with  Jesse Jackson when he was in town for the dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library. He told me and a group gathered by him that he had just visited Central High and was appalled at the condition of the neighborhood surrounding such a significant site. Things are better today, thanks to preservation-minded residents who have created a design overlay district and have restored several of the houses to their former grandeur, and folks like Dodds who are fixing up houses.

Marcus Holt, a baker at Panera Bread who  with his wife bought a house at 2120 W. 17th St. from Dodds in 2011, said he too was concerned about the increase in activity on Wolfe Street. He takes his two little girls to the playground installed at Centennial by Arkansas Children's Hospital several years ago. "But if there's a large group" of men hanging out, "that will deter us," he said, and he'll take them to play elsewhere.

Dodds was notified today by Sgt. Cheryl Wood with the Special Assignment-COP (Community Oriented Police) that an extra patrol would be added to all shifts.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • One dead, another hospitalized after midtown shooting

    The Little Rock Police Department has tweeted that officers are on the scene of a double shooting at the Midtown Park Apartments, 6115 W. Markham St., near the corner of University Avenue and Markham. Police say one person has died, and a second victim is at a hospital. The apartments were previously known as the Plaza Towers, an affordable housing development.
    • Apr 26, 2017
  • Semantics drives discord over Metroplan vote on 30 Crossing: CORRECTION

    The board of directors of Metroplan voted today to seek public comment on an amendment to its Imagine Arkansas long-range transportation plan that would allow the highway department's 30 Crossing project, to widen 7 miles of I-30 through downtown North Little Rock and North Little Rock and replace the Arkansas River bridge, to go forward.
    • Apr 26, 2017
  • Food Truck Friday lineup: Cajun, Asian and BBQ

    Here's the lineup — including two out-of-towners —  for the Downtown Little Rock Partnership's Food Truck Friday feed from 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. April 28 at Capitol and Main streets: Almost Famous, Black Hound B-B-Q, The Southern Gourmasian and Whole Hog Cafe's food truck.
    • Apr 26, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • State Police issues statement on Jason Rapert 'threats'

    The State Police have issued a minor clarification in what appears to be an effort to soothe an enraged Sen. Jason Rapert, exposed here as overly excited about both a Conway parking lot question from a constituent as well as some inflammatory Internet rhetoric that he's interpreted as a dire threat on his life. State cops took his reports seriously, they say. But in the end, they found nothing actionable.
    • Sep 15, 2015
  • From Dallas, creative thinking about the Interstate 30 project

    An urban planner in Dallas says freeways are not always the answer. Incorporating some creativity already being used in Dallas and looking at the Interstate 30 project from a broader perspective, here are ideas that Arkansas highway planners have not considered. But should.
    • Nov 6, 2015
  • 'How to decimate a city' — a big freeway

    Reporting from around the U.S. continues to illustrate the folly of the Arkansas highway department and construction boosters like the chamber of commerce and Vice Mayor Lance Hines in advocating ever wider freeways through the heart of Little Rock. Syracuse, N.Y., is looking for a better way in a debate remarkably similar to the debate about widening Interstate 30 in Little Rock.
    • Nov 20, 2015

Most Shared

  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • The Kenneth Williams' execution thread

    Kenneth Williams, 38, is scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. tonight at the Cummins Unit near Grady. If a court does not stop the execution, he will be the fourth death row prisoner to die over the last eight days in Arkansas.
  • Griffen asks probe of Ark. Supreme Court and AG's office conduct

    At a press conference today at the Doubletree Hotel just across from the Pulaski County Courthouse, Pulaski County Fifth Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen and his attorneys announced that he has asked the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission to investigate the conduct of the entire Arkansas Supreme Court, and asked the director of the Arkansas Committee on Professional Conduct to investigate the conduct of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and several others in the AG's office, related to what Griffen and his attorneys claim were forbidden ex parte conversations between the Supreme Court and the AG's office.
  • UPDATE: Williams and a victim's family seek execution reprieve from Gov. Hutchinson. He declines.

    Kenneth Williams' attorneys and family of one of his victims have written Gov. Asa Hutchinson in behalf of a reprieve in the execution scheduled for 7 p.m. today.
  • Commission to hear about plans for Ten Commandments monument

    The state will move one step closer to a lawsuit on May 11, when the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will hear the American History and Heritage Foundation's plans for a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state Capitol.
  • Death watch includes a family reunion, arranged by a victim's family

    The execution of Kenneth Williams for his 1999 slaying of Cecil Boren during a prison escape remains scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight, though actions in state and federal courts are anticipated in the final hours.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation