PORTLAND — An organizational meeting for Rosemont residents interested in starting a neighborhood watch program will take place Tuesday, Jan. 25, at St. Ansgar Church, 515 Woodford St.
The 7 p.m. meeting in the church basement comes on the heels of a raucous community forum in December about what some people say is an increase in disorderly neighborhood residents.
Their complaints have focused mostly on two duplexes on Columbia Road, but some residents said there are problems in other parts of the neighborhood, too.
“This meeting is a great first step toward improving the safety of the Rosemont neighborhood and reducing crime,” Councilor Edward Suslovic said in a written statement. “When you organize the eyes and ears of a community, it not only allows the residents to feel safer and more in control of their neighborhood, but it also brings people together to form a more close-knit community.”
At the Dec. 15, 2010, meeting organized by Suslovic, residents complained about loud parties at 41-43 Columbia Road and about a halfway house for recovering alcoholics at 33-35 Columbia Road.
Officials inspected the properties after residents asked the city whether the homes were in compliance with local zoning rules.
According to a report from City Planning Director Penny St. Louis Littell, the duplex at 41-43 Columbia Road, which police said generated 28 complaints in 2010, is in compliance with zoning rules.
But the halfway house needs a conditional permit to operate at 33-35 Columbia Road.
However, Littell said the person leasing the property, Timothy Flanagan, only intends to stay until July 31, and neighborhood residents do not want the city to push him to obtain the permit, which would stay with the property after Flanagan leaves.
Flanagan was forced to temporarily relocate the Atlantic House facility to Columbia Road after a fire at the group’s regular home at 201 Congress St. Littell said Flanagan has building permits to renovate 201 Congress St.
At the meeting on Jan. 25, Officer Tim Farris will present residents with an assortment of options for starting a neighborhood crime watch, which could range from simply putting up signs to having residents conduct neighborhood patrols.
“There is no blueprint,” Farris said. “It’s really up to the neighborhood wants.”
Farris noted the success of neighborhood watch in Riverton Park, where each month police meet with residents and review each call for service.
In the process, Farris said the group was able to disprove the misconception about Riverton Park, which has produced fewer calls for service since the neighborhood watch program’s inception.
“People hear Riverton Park and they automatically assume it’s this rough neighborhood that isn’t safe to be in, and it isn’t a desirable neighborhood, when in fact that’s not true,” Farris said. “We can show that with recent crime data.”
Now, he said, police are using the neighborhood watch meetings to educate residents about a variety of topics, including ways to remove opportunities for criminals. For example, police will be talking with young girls in the Riverton Park neighborhood about Internet safety, after several girls were allegedly lured away from home by “some unsavory characters” online.
Farris said reviewing service calls gives residents a factual picture about what is actually happening in their neighborhood, rather than relying on rumors.
Police previously said that one alleged party house on Columbia Road only generated 28 service calls in 2010, only five of which were substantiated by police. But eight substantiated calls are needed in a 30-day period for the city to take enforcement action.
“The Rosemont area is actually pretty quiet compared to other neighborhoods,” he said.
Regardless of the type of neighborhood watch program the Rosemont residents decide to use, Farris education and communication are the most important outcomes.
“We try to develop the leadership within the actual neighborhood,” he said. “Our big thing is that communication piece – giving them the tools to be successful. Obviously, those folks are there 24/7, (but) law enforcement, we’re in and out of the area all the time.”
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org