Neighborhood reacts to increased crime on North Church Street
North Church Street residents are responding to increased crime and blight in their community with the help of Grass Valley Police – despite fewer officers on the force.
Also known as the Slide Ravine neighborhood, the area including North Church Street, Doris Drive and Hazel Lane has had problems in the past. It is one of the troubled areas that helped spawn the “good landlord” ordinance recently passed by City Council members.
Grass Valley Police have taken steps to respond, but face challenges posed by budget cuts. With 41 sworn and civilian staff, the force is down 11 supervisor, patrol and detective positions due to long-term injury, positions frozen and other vacancies, said Police Capt. Dave Remillard.
“I’ve lived here for about two years, and it kind of comes and goes,” said neighborhood resident Celine Rice. “But this summer, everyone I talked to was calling police three to four times a week. I feel like there’s something every night.”
Problems in the neighborhood include violence, drug use and sales, vandalism, drunk and disorderly behavior and speeding on the narrow street, Remillard said.
Between May 1 and Sept. 30, police received 275 calls for service in the neighborhood, he said.
North Church Street has experienced problems off and on for the 20 years Remillard has been on the force, he added, attributing that to the high concentration of rentals.
“Dating back probably nine months, we had a lot of problems in the neighborhood, so we had a block meeting, established a designated patrol and spent a lot of time deploying officers to the area,” Remillard said. “The problem diminished in about 30 days, but some of the issues became more apparent again over the summer, so we had another meeting two weeks ago.”
About 40 concerned residents showed up, Remillard said, adding most people in the area are good neighbors, and only three or four rental households are responsible for most of the problems.
“This is an example of a neighborhood that would benefit from the good neighbor ordinance,” Remillard said.
The ordinance puts some responsibility on landlords with habitually problematic renters, with the possibility of fines for absentee landlords who do nothing to address those problems.
Since the meeting, police have once again upped patrols in the area, identified the problem apartments and contacted the landlords, Remillard said.
The neighbors also have established a cleanup day on Oct. 9, tackling the garbage on the street, Rice said.
They’ll also work with police on trimming back unkempt hedges spilling over the sidewalks, she added.
Other requests from neighbors to the city include more lights and speed bumps on the street, Rice said.
“The city and police have both been very quick to react when we asked them to,” Rice said. “The problem is, they are short-handed, and they have to move on to the next problem area.”
To help keep patrols up despite a smaller staff, police are working cooperatively with other agencies and the Narcotics Task Force, a multi-agency team covering Nevada County, Remillard said.
“Even with a tight budget, people realize this is a quality-of-life issue,” Remillard said.
To contact Staff Writer Greyson Howard, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4237.
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