ALTON — If last week’s neighborhood meeting is any indication, communication between residents and the police department continues to improve and is helping to curb crime.
On Dec. 18, representatives from the Alton Police Department held another neighborhood problem-solving meeting at the Brown Street Baptist Church, inviting residents from that area of Alton, including Horn and Brown streets and Milton Road.
“If you have a problem in your neighborhood, come to these meetings,” Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons said. “We will deal with it, and we can call you or get with you at the next meeting and tell you how we are addressing (the situation).”
Compared to past neighborhood meetings, the 20 or so residents at the meeting had relatively little to present to the police in the way of ongoing illegal activity.
“We have a pretty good neighborhood,” one Middletown Historic District resident said. “It doesn’t matter what time of the day or night, we all have each other’s phone numbers, and if we see anything (suspicious) we will flip our porch lights on.”
Along with Simmons, Sgt. Terry Buhs (who heads up the department’s housing program) and Sgt. Gary Cranmer, who moderated the meeting, were present.
Cranmer presented police reports to the room, including news of the apprehension of a suspect in multiple vehicle burglaries in the area including on Aberdeen Avenue, the beginnings of eviction proceedings for a problem property on Horn Avenue, and the department’s ongoing battle with heroin on the streets of Alton.
Simmons said his department has been patrolling a problem stop sign at Phinney and Highland avenues and written several tickets in that area.
One resident thanked the city for fixing a sinkhole at Leonard and Horn streets. Another asked how far a resident can go to defend their property from illegal activity.
“The best thing you can do is to be a good witness,” Simmons said. “We would never advocate coming out of your home and trying to detain somebody; you never know what this person is going to do. Call the police, get a good description and get a license plate number.”
Cranmer also revealed two new officers, Jacob Custer and Jacob Stewart, have taken positions with the Alton Police Department and would be starting patrols within the next few days.
Buhs encouraged residents to contact him as well as the city’s Building and Zoning Department with any concerns regarding abandoned houses or suspicion of illegal activity within an empty property.
“Be sure and contact the police regarding any issues with abandoned houses,” Buhs said. “We don’t want kids in there getting hurt and we don’t want any criminal activity going on. This is a problem in the city, and we want to take care of it.”
The meetings are part of an ongoing effort by the city to open lines of communication between police and residents. Simmons says these efforts help his department to keep a handle on problem areas in the city and avoid situations such as the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.
“(During the Ferguson unrest) my staff made a concerted effort to patrol the Alton area,” Simmons said. “I think we did over 400 business checks in about 48 hours. It was very uneventful.”
The next Brown Street area neighborhood meeting is scheduled for Feb. 19.