By Sakiya Duncan
Old Town Lansing Times Staff Reporter
Despite a rough past, Old Town has seen crime decline as it becomes one of the safer places in Lansing.
Crimes such as destruction to property, larceny and burglary have been on a steady decline in Old Town. What is Old Town doing to make sure that its crime stays low? By joining efforts between the community of Old Town and the Lansing Police Department.
Austin Ashley, the executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association, says, “Old Town has banned together to have a neighborhood watch, we coordinate and cooperate with authorities, and we have invested in our community to make it less hospitable for criminals.”
Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) board president Jamie Schriner-Hooper says it has something to do with the filling of vacancies. ” We welcome anyone who wants to work with us to continue to make our community great.”
At the Lansing Police Department (LPD), Public Information Officer Robert Merritt says the LDP is ” A data driven department.” This means that the department tracks reported crime and if they pick up on a unique crime trend they will then send out a tack force and target the area to stop the crime from happening, said Merritt.
“This is was we call proactive policing and we try to get out in front of the crime trend” he said,
There is an officer that ventures into the Old Town area during shifts to check in on things. Though during the year there is a specific time in which police presence is greater in Old Town that others.
“In Old Town there are a lot of events specifically in the summer months. So you will see a lot of foot traffic,” said Merritt. With such a busy time of year police presence increases.
What do everyday workers and people of Old Town have to say about the safety of Old Town?
Chelsea Saleeby works in Old Town and said “it’s kind of up-and-coming, I know it the past it has had bit of a tougher reputation, but new businesses are coming in especially ones related to the arts we are kind of creating a community where people feel safe and can express themselves.”
Owner of JN Press or Juice Nation. Vernon Richards has been present in Old Town for about a year.
“Old Town is really a nice town, I haven’t really seen anything suspicious all the neighbors seem to look out for each other,” said Richards.
Mark Lee volunteers in Old Town by collecting their trash. He has been present in Old Town for about four or five months and has not seen anything happen.
Desire Keys works at one of the many bars in Old Town. She says most of the time she is by herself in the morning and feels pretty safe.
“Ive heard about things from the past before I started working here but I love it and I have no problems down here at all.”
What was Old Town like in the past?
“Before our revitalization, crime was rampant with drugs, alcohol, prostitution and assault … We had it all,” said Ashley.
The revitalization of Old Town has definitely given the neighborhood a new attitude.The increase in business has helped with the decline of crime.
Ashley described it as “The broken window theory, that basically states that if you don’t take care of small crimes, then that is a breeding ground for larger crimes.”
“The amount of investment both in business and to the physical spaces has created a climate that is not hospitable to crime,” he said.