Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's announcement several weeks ago that he was going to move the Zone 3 Police Station two-thirds of a mile from Mary Street in the South Side to E. Warrington Avenue on the Hilltop has garnered the expected reactions.
On the Hilltop, in general, people are thankful and looking forward to the comings and goings of the officers in Zone 3. There's a new hope that the problems with drugs, violence and prostitution will be a thing of the past or at least not as numerous.
On the Flats, some people are outraged…How could the mayor take away their police station without asking them first? What's going to happen to East Carson Street and its thousands of visitors every weekend?
For years public safety officials at all levels have maintained that the location of a police station is immaterial because the officers are in the field patrolling their sectors and answering calls, not sitting in the station waiting to be summoned. Except during change of shifts, the only police in a police station are supervisory personnel.
Will Carson Street become Carson City with an anything goes attitude after the police move? Probably not any more than it is now. The change in venue for the officers' home base will not result in any fewer police on the streets of the South Side, nor will it put any more police on the streets of the Hilltop. Officers will continue to be assigned to their sectors.
By the same reasoning, the move to the Hilltop may result in the drugs and prostitution being pushed off the main streets and into the alleys, particularly in the shadow of the new station, but it won't be a panacea to end crime.
It's an oversimplification to say the Hilltop needs the police more because it suffers from crimes of violence as opposed to having a police presence on the South Side to babysit drunk twenty-somethings. South Side too has its violent crime and drug problems and one neighborhood's problems are not more important than another.
Hopefully, Mayor Ravenstahl was only playing to the crowd when he announced that the Zone 3 Police Station was moving to "save the Hilltop." A more reasonable explanation, and one that is probably closer to the reality of the situation, is that city officials were faced with what to do with an overcrowded deteriorating building with health and safety issues in the current station.
The former hostel building at the corner of Arlington and Warrington avenues would seem to be a good fit for the city. The building is owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority; it underwent a $1 million plus renovation several years ago; is located in a business district; and, is centrally located providing quick and convenient access to all parts of the Zone.
Should Mayor Ravenstahl unilaterally have decided to move the station without consulting the three councilmen whose districts overlap in Zone 3 and the residents who will be affected by the change?
Councilmen Deasey, Kraus and Motznik all have neighborhoods served by the police in Zone 3 and should have been consulted about the move. The residents of the neighborhoods should also have been provided an opportunity for public input.
That being said, the mayor made the right decision for the location of the station, he just missed on the public process.
What is more important than the location of the station, and what will get a Public Hearing in City Council Chambers on August 12, is that the police are given the number of officers and equipment to adequately do their job protecting the residents and visitors in the district.