MEDFORD — Cars speeding through their west Medford neighborhood got so bad this past summer that Kimberly and Austin Short built their own sign on 11th Street telling drivers: "SLOW DOWN."
Kimberly Short said they put the sign up three months ago after one of their cats and a neighbor's dog were struck and killed on the street. She said speeders have since slowed down.
"It's helped a lot," she said.
Other residents of the neighborhood around Washington Elementary School agree that it's time to rein in crime and graffiti as well as speeding drivers. So several neighbors are forming a neighborhood group with help from city officials.
From reducing crime and cleaning up alleys to putting up streetlights and planting trees, neighborhood groups can do a lot to reclaim their turf, said Louise Dix, Medford's neighborhood resource coordinator. Dix has spearheaded similar efforts, which are still ongoing, in the Liberty Park and McLoughlin neighborhoods.
The Washington neighborhood is bordered by Main Street on the north, Park Avenue on the east, Stewart Avenue on the south and Columbus Avenue on the west.
Southern Oregon University students conducted a survey of neighborhood residents in September as part of a civic engagement day. The results showed that crime, traffic and graffiti topped the list of residents' concerns.
"People felt that there were more drugs in the neighborhood than before," said Dix.
Dix helped Rogue Community College organize a class called Neighborhood Leadership Academy that teaches citizens how to get involved with city government. City officials and the Neighborhood Leadership Academy will host a Washington Neighborhood Fun Fair to pull together a committed group of people to look at the survey and work on a neighborhood action plan, said Dix.
Medford police Lt. Tim Doney said the 2006 records for that general area include:
- 51 Reports of assault.
- 32 Reports of intimidation and threats.
- 29 Reports of residential burglaries.
- 46 Reports of thefts from a motor vehicle.
- 94 Other theft cases.
- 96 Vandalism reports.
- 87 Reports of drug offenses.
- 19 Cases involving driving under the influence of intoxicants.
- 21 Reports of disorderly conduct.
Though the numbers look large when they're added up, Doney said they aren't unusually high.
"The neighborhoods are pretty densely packed," he said. "There's easily several thousand people living there."
Heather Hartman said she'd like to see a reduction in crime. She said she's getting involved with the effort because she would like to feel safer in her Newton Street neighborhood.
"I have called the police quite often," she said, adding that she has witnessed a break-in. She said with tree plantings, sidewalks, and neighbors communicating with each other, the neighborhood can have a different feeling.
Medford City Councilman Jim Kuntz, who lives on Park Avenue, (see correction note below) is also getting involved in the neighborhood group. He said with the revitalization of Washington Elementary School as well as Union Park, the effort is well underway.
Rikki Cuozzo applauded efforts to get neighbors talking. He has lived near Washington Elementary School for 30-plus years. From people smoking pot in the alley behind his house to graffiti and vandalism, Cuozzo said his neighborhood has seen its share of crime in recent years. He said he supports revitalization efforts, and the area could benefit from more neighbors talking to each other.
"It's not like the old days when people knew all their neighbors. People keep to themselves in our society," he said.
Not all residents think there is a problem, however.
Mary Jennings, who has lived on Murray Street for 15 years, said she walks the neighborhood nearly every day and finds it a pleasant place to live.
"I feel safe," she said, adding that she's heard people talking about increasing drug usage, but she hasn't witnessed any problem, and she likes where she lives.
"It's quiet," she said.
Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail email@example.com.
Correction: The original version of this story listed an incorrect street for the resident of Jim Kuntz. This version has been corrected.