Not so long ago, I used to sit in my living room with a loaded .357 magnum. My next-door neighbors were simply terrible tenants.
They held loud late-night parties at least four times a week, had screaming arguments outside almost every day and sometimes fistfights. Their kids threw trash on my lawn, defaced our mailbox and egged my house and car. A toddler, wearing nothing but a loaded diaper, was often outside at midnight. Cars would pull up to their house, beep their horn and someone would run down and sell something to the driver.
Trying to reason with them just elicited screaming F-bombs. We repeatedly called their deadbeat landlord to complain, but she eventually changed her phone number.
The memories of that horrible period came rushing back when I spoke with City Councilman John Mraz and Police Chief Walt Tibbet about Parkway Gardens. Just three days into the new year, Fairfield notched its first homicide, the shooting death of 21-year-old Terrell Brumfield at Parkway Gardens.
Parkway Gardens has many of the same problems exhibited from my former neighbors. Absentee landlords renting to anyone who can pay who don’t care what their tenants are doing and don’t even know who their tenants are. Decent folks forced to live in fear.
I’ve never heard Mraz as angry as he was after the latest homicide. The children being raised in that environment fuels his rage. If we don’t change the neighborhood, too many of those children will grow up with no hope and become perpetrators.
Chief Tibbet told me the department has stepped up patrols, devoting many man hours and resources in the area, and that they’re not going away. He said his officers have been good at identifying suspects of crimes but they need more help from witnesses.
I can sympathize with the good folks who live there. Putting up with screaming arguments, burglaries, drug deals, fights and death threats all to loud, thumping music leaves one feeling like a prisoner in their own home. Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with shootings, but there were always shooting threats.
For us it took forming a Neighborhood Watch group, logging all the disturbances and calling police and Child Protective Services repeatedly. The group decided to individually sue the landlord and that provided the impetus to evict the tenants.
At the same time, our group provided a Christmas dinner for the family and we brought the tenants’ kids presents. When the children weren’t terrorizing the neighborhood, they’d come to our doors asking for food and we’d help them. We also informed the awful neighbors when we saw their children talking to a registered sex offender on the next street. The Neighborhood Watch group loathed the disturbance these neighbors brought to the street, but we still felt badly for their kids.
On a much larger scale, this is what must happen in places like Parkway Gardens. Both the chief and councilman agree it’s going to happen. Enforcement, eviction, support and consistency.
Tibbet echoed Mraz that we can’t “arrest our way” out of the problem. He added, “There are a lot of great people who live in Parkway Gardens and our officers want to support them. But we can bring in community groups, more officers and the works, but there has to be a core group of residents working from within for it to work.” Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at [email protected]