Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Spare-a-Dime Paradigm

Is it me, or is Tremont getting a bit sketchier these days? Though it's still home to some of the best restaurants in the region, I wonder if the police force in the area is slipping. Normally I wouldn't get into crime in this blog, but crime--especially street crime--is a key aspect of safe pedestrian living. Two recent experiences stick out in my mind:

(1) Suspicious dudes--drug dealers?--occupy every corner of the West 25th / Clark Ave. intersection. If you come into Tremont from the West Side, you pretty much have to pass through this intersection. It's getting really creepy, especially when you pass through on late-night weekday evenings (Lava Lounge & Lincoln Park both offer late-night food!) and these guys check you out to see if you want to buy...

(2) On-the-street aggressive panhandlers now confront people on West 14th in the Lincoln Park area. Nothing says "Suburbanites: Come Spend Your Money in Tremont!" like people bugging you for bus change outside the bar. That'll scare off young professionals with money to burn.


Blogger Kristi said...

This subject seems to be an ongoing issue with no good answers... the panhandling reference in particular makes me think about all the hullabaloo in Cleveland not so long ago about what to do about panhandlers downtown. I don't have an answer, but my gut reaction is that young professionals need to get over it. Maybe that's unfair, but unless panhandlers and "suspicious dudes" that might be drug dealers, or just hanging out, are actually threatening people or engaging in violence, what should be done? I don't think having police shoo away anyone who looks creepy (in the eyes of "suburbanites") is fair. Obviously the panhandling issue is symptomatic of a larger problem (poverty!) in Cleveland, but should police really be responsible for the mere presence of people that others find suspicious, creepy, etc? It's annoying to be approached by panhandlers, yes, but at least to me, mostly annoying because I feel guilty for not giving everyone money. But guilt or sympathy is usually as serious as my emotion goes - I don't think I've ever actually been afraid. It's a big world filled with lots of people and if we just scour our urban areas so suburbanites can feel comfy we're placing the burden of tolerance on cities and police forces (as in: tolerate suburbanites' comfort levels so they'll spend their money here) rather than on individuals to tolerate other individuals (say "no, sorry" and go on your way, has anyone ever personally had a violent response to this?). The suspicious potential drug dealers? Police definitely need to be on top of the drug problem in Cleveland for a multitude of reasons. However, since I don't plan on buying drugs and I don't go to places like Tremont to stand around at intersections, my interaction with suspicious dudes is minimal. So if they're there, they're there. Address root problems of drugs, crime, poverty - yes. Run off people standing around or asking for change - eh.

3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call this pussy-ass libral pablum. Bougie liberals want all the benefits of city living, but won't take responsibility for the exploitation their comfortable lifestyle inflicts on others. Sure, it's easy when you don't have to look at the brutal conditions of the plantations where the coffee for your $6 mochafraccio is grown... but take some responsibilty for pumping money into "urban development" instead of public health, or those low-wage, service sector jobs that keep prices low at REI.

Stop being such a pussy.

3:04 PM  
Anonymous Tara said...

I'm not sure what Anonymous is babbling about (once you got to plantations and REI, you lost me. Were you responding to multiple blogs?), but Kristi made some good points...

In most cases, panhandling is not threatening anyone directly and most people accept it as part of the "city-living" package. Go to Chicago during the holidays and you're lucky to make it a block through the loop without at least two people requesting funds. As far as I can tell, it has been this way for a long time and Chicago's dowtown is thriving (and growing. It is also hard to go a block without seeing a crane!) So, what is the difference in Cleveland?

The difference here is the Cleveland is NOT growing. In fact, the city's population has been dropping for awhile without any indication of a serious pickup. At the same time, Cleveland is surrounded by suburbs that are growing and offering plenty for suburbanites to do.

The panhandling issue comes up here because suburbanites are a skittish bunch: they watch local news that features nothing but Cleveland crime; then they come to tremont and get approached by a dirty, poor person. From the perspective of the middle class, Westlake resident, that is a scary experience. And you'd better believe that they will think twice about coming back; especially when Crocker Park offers, from their perspective, all the good of a city and none of the bad.

This brings us to the fundamental question this region has to ask itself: Do you want Cleveland to be a strong center city? If so, the perspective on suburbanites has to change. Cleveland has to view all those people as either potential residents or potential money-spenders. That means making the city's best districts (Tremont and Ohio City, for instance) approachable and enjoyable. It's annoying to have to cater to people in this way but until all the communities in the region decide to work together, Cleveland's got to compete.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Please forgive me if I'm in error - I don't have a huge amount of personal experience with Tremont, but my sister did live there for about a year (2003) (during which her car was stolen. I have another friend whose car was stolen in Tremont not once, but twice.) But was Tremont ever *not* particularly sketchy? If so, what date range would you pinpoint as the golden age of Tremont? I'm not trying to be snippy, I just want to know....

8:18 AM  
Anonymous The NRA Humanitarian said...

I agree with Gross (he's on point, as usual). Some of the comments that people should "get over it" are rather naive. While it is great to wax philosophical about whether panhandlers may be dangerous or if it is "wrong to stereotype" guys as drug dealers that are hanging out on street corners late at night from the comforts of home, when it comes to real life --my life-- I adopt a realistic approach. Shoving my head in the sand, which I see going on here, isn't my approach. One cannot simply will away criminal conduct by thinking well of others. One's kindness does not stop another's ill intentions. Furthermore, I pay taxes! I expect to feel safe.

In Cleveland, there is a war for our streets. Those who can help to affect positive change -- young people with disposible income -- are being scared off. This is a problem, Houston. Yes, I can appreciate the nuances here: it is one thing for a person to beg for money on a busy street but quite another for he/she to so at night in a poorly lit neighborhood. The latter poses some real safety issues. The police do need to get involved. Police presence is very important for both safety and the perception of safety. If the streets are not perceived as safe, people will spend their money elsewhere. Cleveland cannot afford such a trend.

Over the years, I have seen begging grow more aggressive. From personal experiences, I can attest there is a dangerous element amongst panhandlers. Off of Detroit and West 117th Street, I was confronted in a dark parking lot by one of these folks. He quietly approached from my back and as I turned around, he asked for money. Thank goodness I was packing (I have a CCW) and was able to peacefully "shoo" the person away. Other times, I was less than lucky. I was accosted in Collinwood (where I used to live) and downtown. Crime is real. Better to be safe than sorry. Be armed with common sense, knowledge and the hand gun of your choice. Take back the streets. Handing out money is dangerous. Never stop! Tactically this is a bad move. Keep your distance and keep yourself alive.

Lastly, I don't give money to panhandlers; I never will. My grandparents called them "bums." While I feel for those persons with disabilities who have been wrongly cast to the streets, there is another larger segment who make a lifestyle out of begging. My charitable donations for a better city are offerd in Church; handing money directly to a street person often reinforces behavior that led him/her there in the first place.

In sum, while all the things mentioned here are not completely new to Tremont nor specific to it, the level of the problem is growing and as such, so are growing fears of crime in that neighborhood. In the long run, if this trend persists, it will kill the business community. My suggestion: a troop surge.

4:13 PM  
Blogger James said...

I agree with Kristi and partially with NRA Humanitarian. He clearly has his head on straight and wants to do something about the problem. But not all of us can carry a gun and wait for criminals to come.

That wasn't a rip on you. Here's my story.

DC is loaded with ornary beggars. While some of them may have fallen on rough times and will be panhandling until they can get back on their feet, the majority are small-time criminals. I personally stopped feeling sorry for them when I realized how much pubic housing there is, both apartments and homeless shelters. I'm not going to spend every walk to the store looking into the soul of the panhandler before me and judging if they deserve some recently I've been dismissing all of them. I think they're leaches, a waste of life, and a potential threat to honest people who want to build up a cooperative neighborhood.

So what can we really do about them?

Well this one guy got nasty today because I said no to his begging, without some half-assed explanation of why I couldn't give him money. I wanted to confront him...but without any fighting prowess, and a mixed up druggie in front of me, that wasn't a smart choice. I just waited for him to pass then called the cops.

Sure it doesn't show a lot of bravado or "balls" but yeah, thats why we have a police force. Now I think that appeasing a begger with the weak " change" is worthwhile to keep the peace and prevent otherwise peaceful leaches from becoming dangerous leaches.

6:58 PM  

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