More than a dozen Lindenwald residents, concerned about homeless people living in tents near their homes, and the thefts and drug use they say accompanies them, attended Wednesday’s Hamilton City Council meeting.
Three residents spoke, including one woman who cried while talking about how fearful people are that children will be harmed by discarded drug needles. But the rest took Mayor Pat Moeller’s advice, and rather than speaking during the meeting, went outside into a lobby area to discuss the problems with Police Chief Craig Bucheit and Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi, who was acting as the city manager that day.
After that meeting in the lobby ended, residents said they were disappointed they didn’t know more specifics of what actions city officials would be taking, and when those things would happen.
The Journal-News reported Sunday that residents have concerns about thefts and drug abuse in recent months, especially in an area north of Madison Avenue, near the CSX railroad tracks, not far south of the new South Hamilton Crossing overpass above those tracks.
Thefts are so prevalent even hanging plants on porches are being swiped by people hoping to sell them for drugs, residents have said.
Some council members and high-profile area volunteers visited the area after that report, and residents were encouraged by what they heard, including plans to eliminate bushes and other brush on the properties where the homeless people have been living near them.
The residents were concerned enough about the issue that they had planned to meet Saturday evening in Joyce Park to discuss them. Before Wednesday’s council meeting, they called off the Saturday gathering, but after the council meeting, they were wondering whether that had been a good choice.
Madison Avenue resident Anita Shively, crying, told council, “We own a double lot, and the kids in the neighborhood play in our yard where it’s not fenced in. Before they play there, we have to go out and search for needles” that drug users have left behind.
People “can’t even walk without stumbling, they’re so high,” Shively told council. “One almost fell over a child who wasn’t in his way at all.”
One nearby rental property is a location where many people visit and “is a huge problem,” she said. It has no water or electric service, she and neighbors said. “Something has to be done.”
“The only solution that I see to this problem is to clear the area out,” Shively said, also asking for more police patrols.
The one police officer who has been working in the area has been doing an excellent job, she said, although residents are concerned about the officer’s safety.
“There is nothing that she said that I disagree with,” Scrimizzi told council.
He said he believes city staff have been doing great work, “but, I can tell you, it’s like trying to hold sand in your hand,” he said. “They’re inundated with these types of calls.”
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