Taking back the streets
This past January, following Edward Kelley’s reappointment as mayor of Cleveland Heights, he made the statement that the city will “take back the streets.” On Monday, March 21, at the FutureHeights annual meeting, he reiterated that statement when presenting a council proclamation to Deanna Bremer Fisher, executive director of FutureHeights, in recognition of the 10th anniversary of the organization.
Since Kelley’s first statement, very little has been made of what the statement means and how the community, the city government and police department will accomplish this goal. At its heart, this is a matter of safety: the perception and reality of what safety is, how the community “we”—and each of us as individuals—feels safe and ultimately communicates that feeling through expression and behavior. It is as if safety has an aura or Zenlike quality. When we don’t feel safe, that sense of being at risk or in fear permeates our individual and collective actions. When we don’t feel safe we can install security doors and window bars, and get guard dogs. We can decide against walking outdoors at night, avoid public places, neglect our property, and ultimately move if we can. When we feel safe our doors are open, we talk to our neighbors, take walks, use the parks, invest in our property and community, and generally feel good about ourselves and our neighbors. Here are my questions to the mayor: What is the plan to achieve this objective, and how will we know it is a success?
The police department has a key role to play in this, and as we move about the city we observe the work of the police. At 10:30 p.m., Thursday, March 22, I was taking my son back to his apartment in University Circle. As we approached the intersection of Edgehill and Overlook roads, we saw four police cars parked on Overlook in front of the College Club, and one policeman in the bushes overlooking Edgehill at the top of the hill. We assumed that they were there as the result of a call out. It was only after I dropped my son off and came back up the hill that I realized that this was a radar trap, catching speeders coming up Edgehill from University Circle. It was apparently targeting speeders coming off the 3–11 shift at the hospital, as they entered Cleveland Heights at the top of the hill. If you have ever driven on that section of Edgehill, you know it is like driving on the moon, definitely not conducive to speeding—and how many people speed uphill at 10:30 at night?
If posting a speed trap—using four police units at 10:30 on a Thursday night, at the border of University Circle and Cleveland Heights, at the top of a hill—is part of the plan to “take back the streets,” I sincerely question the plan and the city’s commitment to a successful outcome. I didn’t feel any safer. I was just very angry, and my anger was not Zenlike. Mayor Kelley, is this what you mean by “taking back the streets?” And what would you tell someone who would like to take a walk in his or her neighborhood at this time of night, but doesn’t feel safe doing so? Is tying up four police units to catch speeders as they come home from work at 10:30 p.m. more important than patrolling our neighborhoods and creating an environment where we feel—and are—safe?
Michael Knoblauch member of the FutureHeights board, and a 34-year resident of Cleveland Heights whose three children are graduates of Cleveland Heights High School.