Hilltop leaders discuss safety

By Noell Wolfgram Evans
Staff Writer

A range of public safety concerns were discussed as the Greater Hilltop Area Commission (GHAC) Public Safety Committee held their January meeting where they mapped out priority areas for the year.

The continuing epidemic of heroin and prostitution remains a top concern for the committee. Commissioner JD Groves admitted that bringing these issues under control would need to be a collaborative effort.

“It’s such a crisis,” said Grove. “We need to do something, even from a state level.”

Public Safety chairman Jay McCallister noted the difficulty in addressing this issue.

“There is no miracle cure,” he said. “It won’t fix itself overnight. Right now we just need ideas.”

Resident Suzanne Martello stressed the humanity of the crisis.

“We don’t want to run people off just to go to a different area. We want to try and get them help if we can.”

The committee wants to build on the education programs it participated in on this topic last year and is looking for other ways to make an impact.

The growing homeless population also continues to be a concern. Some in attendance were worried that the tactics of some of the homeless were becoming aggressive.

Commissioner Judy Andrews shared a story of a homeless man “working” the drive-through line at a fast food restaurant looking for donations. She worried about his safety in that high traffic situation.

McCallister said, “We may not fix it (homelessness) tonight, or even this year, but we need to continue working on it.”

While heroin and homelessness have been concerns, there were some newer problems noted such as the proliferation of trash on the curbs and in the alleys. The concern was over the sheer amount of garbage that pops up and how it can obstruct streets and sidewalks as well as invite pests.

“I’m tired of seeing furniture and bags of stuff all over the curbs and everywhere in the alleys. People, landlords in particular, need to call for Dumpsters or at least schedule a bulk pickup,” said one resident in attendance.

Also earmarked as areas to work on were the continued repair of broken and malfunctioning street lights, diminishing the number of dark spots or areas in need of street lights. The commission also plans to continue to work with law enforcement on the removal of abandoned cars and decrease the number of abandoned homes and other vacant structures.

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