As Hamilton’s Lindenwald neighborhood prepares for Saturday’s walk to reclaim some streets from drug dealers and other criminals, residents as well as local crime experts are sharing how people throughout Butler County can ward off crime where they live.
Perhaps the biggest step Hamilton has taken in recent years toward crime prevention has been the 17Strong neighborhood-strengthening effort, said both Hamilton Police Chief Craig Bucheit and Kristina Latta-Landefeld of Envision Partnerships, which focuses on prevention of drug and alcohol addictions and efforts to promote healthy lifestyles.
“The idea that neighbors and people are actively out in the neighborhood — walking, talking and engaged — is great,” said Bucheit. “People who really care about their neighborhood, care about the safety and betterment of their neighborhood, are willing to get out there and roll their sleeves up and hit the streets. I’d like to see more neighborhoods inspired by the efforts in Lindenwald.”
Also, there’s “a lot of power and potential when a community and the police come together,” Bucheit said.
Lindenwald resident Roger Hougland of Take Back the Wald recently announced plans for Saturday’s 2 p.m. walk. People will meet on the sidewalk in front of Heaven Sent, at 2269 Pleasant Ave. The walk will end at Benninghofen Park, where there will be a small festival, with music, food trucks and a family movie in the evening.
“I’m just trying to encourage people to start making their signs,” Hougland said. Those signs should express messages with “things that show positivity — ‘Lindenwald Pride,’ things that will deter illegal activity,” he said.
He’s hoping Lindenwald youth and church groups will participate, bringing fun and energy.
Hougland said he is telling people, “Bring your kids, bring signs that promote positivity in the neighborhood, about the neighborhood.”
Latta-Landefeld, who also is coordinator of the Greater Hamilton Coalition that works toward drug-free living among youth, joined others at a recent meeting of PROTOCOL (People Reaching Out To Others: Celebrating Our Lindenwald) to explain some of the dynamics that lead to crime and other social problems in a neighborhood.
“The point that I tried to make there is that the problem has happened over time, and so it’s going to take time to make it better,” she said.
Lindenwald has suffered in recent years as the community, which used to be almost its own small town, with butchers, pharmacists, doctors and other local businesses, she said.
“The city’s putting effort into putting more economic life into the (Lindenwald) downtown, but that’s not going to happen overnight either,” Latta-Landefeld said. Students at Miami University recently created an economic-development plan to help rebuild Lindenwald’s business area.
Crime watches have turned out to be impractical for a city of Hamilton’s size, but there are alternatives, Bucheit said.
“When you have a neighborhood watch, it may be a neighbor and two or three other people (in a crime-watch group). When you have 63,000 people in 17 neighborhoods, we just don’t have the resources to engage in that kind of level,” Bucheit said.
It’s more practical for people to attend neighborhood meetings, like those PROTOCOL holds, that allow for community conversations about what’s happening, he said. Afterward, individuals may decide to take leisurely evening walks together, looking out for blight and other issues, and report them through the city’s 311 problem-reporting system.
The city hosts Citizens’ Police Academies, and has asked each of the 17 neighborhoods send people to those, so they can learn about how police do things, “and how they can help us when they go back to their neighborhoods, and how they can share that information with their family, their friends and their neighbors,” Bucheit said.
Each Hamilton neighborhood has a police officer who is its liaison officer and can help resolve problems with crime and other annoyances, he said.
Here are other suggestions offered about how neighborhoods can deter crime:
Meet your neighbors
“I think what people like Frank Downie (leader of PROTOCOL) are doing, and what 17Strong is doing, is the right place to start,” Latta-Landefeld said. “It’s about the bridging neighbors event (the recent party of neighborhoods on Hamilton’s High/Main Bridge), to get people to sit down at a table together. I think judgment happens (about other people) because fear is present, and I think that fear and judgment go away when you sit down and talk with someone.”
Also, “Kindness matters,” Latta-Landefeld said.
“For so many people, feelings of isolation drive them to be more isolated. If you’re isolated (from society) because of drug use, or a criminal past, or whatever that may be, it tends to increase those behaviors. So for me, personally, I believe kindness really matters — to look people in the eyes and say, ‘Good morning,’ ” she said.
Instead of holding a get-out-of-my-neighborhood attitude, Latta-Landefeld believes, “the attitude should be we’re part of a community, and every person who lives in this community needs to be treated like they’re someone who deserves the same respect as the next person walking next to them.”
Get churches, service agencies involved
Every neighborhood has a network of organizations and people who are willing to help them, including social-service agencies, police, church groups, youth groups, “and what you need to do is reach out to those groups, and take part in them, to build them,” Latta-Landefeld said.
Spend time cleaning
Trash pick-up events can elevate a neighborhood, instill pride, and in itself begin to slow crime.
Remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach
The solution for one community may be very different from the answer to the problem in another. For instance, Lindenwald people have come to believe that if they spend more time outdoors, engaging with neighbors, and have more positive activities in the community, that can deter crime.
Involve the experts
“Law enforcement is really helpful, because they understand the crime that is happening, where it’s happening, and frequently, how it’s happening,” Latta-Landefeld said.
“When it comes to how do you change the community, I do believe that it starts with relationships, and building community,” Latta-Landefeld said. “The tactic that we take is we ask not just ‘Why is whatever specific issue happening?’ But, ‘Why is it happening here?’ So we really try to get down to the root cause of the issue.”
It’s helpful to hold town-hall-style meetings, with experts who can talk about the situation and how to improve it, Latta-Landefeld said.
“And then, from there, it’s important to do things” that focus on solving the issue.