Columbia neighborhood working to reduce crime

(Columbia) Oct. 9, 2002 - Martin Luther King himself said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness...only light can do that." Residents in the Martin Luther King neighborhood are hoping to do that with new lights and city plans.

Aelena Heller strolled through MLK Park towards home. She says it's an activity she reserves strictly for daylight hours, "At night that's when so many accidents are going on, so most of the time I stay around the house."

Since February, more than 360 people have been arrested in the 12 block area around the park for things like crack possession, trespassing and prostitution.

Durham Carter is the neighborhood association president and says crime and housing are a problem, "If you go down about four blocks, you'll see what I'm talking about. I don't go down there. If we had a neighborhood meeting, I don't throw flyers down there, because I'm afraid."

The city has cleared some vacant lots, added three and four way stop signs and installed more street lights like ones on Pine Street. Columbia police say they've cracked down in the area and crime rates have decreased by 32%.

Resident Carmen Gibbes says she's happy to see the extra police protection, "I feel safe walking after 12 at night here because of the street lights and police make themselves known. They drive through the park, when I don't see them, that's when I get scared."

Carter says his next challenge in cleaning up the neighborhood is getting undercover and foot patrolmen, "Any idiot is going to be straight if he see a blue and white car with a light on it coming up the street."

The Columbia Police Department says it has no specific plans for foot patrolman, but their goal is to have a community safety officer in every neighborhood. Although they're not police officers, they would help patrol communities on bike and on foot.

By Megan Hughes
Posted 7:22pm by BrettWitt