CLEANUP

Davenport police work with Heatherton residents on cleanup

2013-10-21T04:30:00Z 2013-10-21T11:37:05Z Davenport police work with Heatherton residents on cleanupBarb Ickes bickes@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

For the first hour, the cops outnumbered the neighbors. As residents along Heatherton Drive in Davenport realized the police were in their yards for purely helpful purposes, they trickled out to help.

During Saturday's neighborhood cleanup and cookout along Heatherton Drive, where police calls are higher than in many other areas of the city, the foundation was laid. And that was the point: Show interest, have an impact, and build from there.

"We'll see what happens, but I'm pretty optimistic," said Officer Danny Antle, who is assigned to the Neighborhood Energized to Succeed, or NETS, unit of the Davenport Police Department. "It's a start, something to grow from.

"They (police and residents) were able to get Goose Creek to stand on its own."

The Goose Creek Heights area was NETS' first big push toward stabilizing a troubled neighborhood. Launched in 2005, the efforts there were led by Officer Scott Fuller, who also pitched in Saturday for the Heatherton Drive cleanup.

With a trash bag in one hand and a garbage grabber in the other, Fuller paused from his work long enough to offer assurances that small efforts can lead to big results.

"Goose Creek is an outstanding success story," he said of the major quality-of-life improvements that have occurred there. "It's a great model any neighborhood could use. It's been all volunteer, which makes it even more amazing. The people have worked really hard.

"That's why I'm out here today. Any help or guidance I can give, I'm happy to do it. You can't do this alone."

Husband-and-wife landlords Cheri and Dennis Olson, along with their property manager, Jay Williams, knew they needed help. When the trio realized crime was inching upwards, and trash was collecting outside apartments and duplexes, they asked for backups.

"Heatherton had been on the upswing, but, this summer, it took a few steps back," Cheri Olson said as she filled her garbage bag Saturday. "We said, 'Nope. We made an investment here, and we're sticking to it.'

"Jay (Williams) sent a letter to the city and aldermen, letting them know we're backsliding on Heatherton."

Leann Bohanan's two daughters and nephew were among the children who were learning Saturday about neighborhood pride.

"This is my first time doing something like this," she said. "I've been here four years now, and I'm so tired of trash. It's good to be out here doing something about it, plus the kids learn about doing something in their community."

Antle said an important role of NETS officers is to respond to crime but also make efforts to curb it.

"Up here, you've got concentrations — gatherings of people — where fights start," he said. "People start yelling, and we get called. It's good to be here when we're not responding to problems."

Overall, police calls are up 3.3 percent, according to Services Division Capt. Jane Imming. While drug-related crimes are up 266 percent from the summer months of 2012 to the same time period this year, other crimes are down. For instance, domestic-disturbance calls are down 39 percent.

"Our NETS officers have been maintaining an active and visible presence in the area, preventing crime, interacting with residents and property owners in the neighborhood and conducting enforcement by actively enforcing traffic violations and criminal law violations," Imming said.

But neighborhood success means more than enforcement, she noted, adding that face-to-face meetings during events like the one Saturday give police and neighbors a chance to get to know each other under pleasant circumstances.

Dennis Olson said he has seen the strategy pay off.

"You sometimes have stereotypes about people, and you realize they aren't accurate when you get a chance to talk to them," he said. "The whole idea here is to help people take more pride. It's also about making connections."

His rental-property manager, Williams, said he has seen the same problems that plague Heatherton in many other areas, and he is certain it is possible to turn things around.

"The same bad things are bringing down neighborhoods wherever you go — unsupervised kids, drugs," he said. "Even the drugs are mostly the kids. It's always 2 percent of people who screw things up for everything. People are overwhelmingly good."

Assigned to the grill for Saturday's cookout, Williams looked over his shoulder toward a cornfield that runs behind a row of apartment buildings.

"See those kids out there with garbage bags?" he asked. "They are learning something."

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