As workers clean up Syracuse streets to fight crime, residents ask for more

http://www.syracuse.com/crime/index.ssf/2015/08/as_officials_clean_up_syracuse_city_residents_ask_for_more.html

As workers clean up Syracuse streets to fight crime, residents ask for more

Samantha House | shouse@syracuse.comBy Samantha House | shouse@syracuse.com
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on August 27, 2015 at 1:51 PM, updated August 27, 2015 at 2:54 P

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The start of a news conference this morning to tout a new crime-fighting initiative was commandeered by angry residents.

With the buzz of chain saws in the background, Rich Puchalski asked Mayor Stephanie Miner why the city of Syracuse has not razed a number of long-vacant properties on Fitch and Dudley streets.

He said his organization, Syracuse United Neighbors, had been asking the city to tear down dilapidated homes — particularly 203 Fitch Street — since 2012.

“Where is the administration in terms of closing these properties?” he asked.

Miner, standing next to Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler, said the city must abide by regulations when deciding what to do with abandoned properties.

“We have to work through the court system,” she said.

But as they wait for court proceedings to resolve, Miner said agencies have teamed up to address problems associated with vacant buildings.

This morning, workers flocked to Fitch and Dudley streets to remove debris, board up entrances to abandoned structures and fix broken street lights. The work was part of amulti-agency initiative aimed at eliminating environments that shelter criminals.

Miner said people are using overgrown properties to hide drugs and avoid arrest. In abandoned neighborhoods, she said criminals feel sheltered.

“That’s the last thing we want is criminals feeling safe,” Miner said.

Through a newly unveiled problem-oriented policing program that makes vacant properties harder to enter and illuminates streets with proper lighting, Miner said the city hopes to make it harder for criminals to operate.

Fowler said Fitch and Dudley streets were selected for the program due to one factor: crime.

Looking at crime statistics, Fowler said his department noted multiple shots have been fired this year on Fitch Street.

A database created by Syracuse.com shows there were four reports of shots fired in 2015 on the 200 block of Fitch Street between Jan. 1 and July 25. A shooting on the 300 block of Fitch Street near Delaware Elementary School on May 15 left a man seriously injured.

After deciding to take the initiative to Fitch and Dudley streets, Fowler said officers knocked on every door in the area and noted residents’ top concerns. Members of the multi-agency team then worked to address some of those concerns during today’s initiative.

The effort will be repeated in other parts of the city, Fowler said.

“Crime is what points us in that direction,” he said. “This is not the only neighborhood that suffers from this issue.”

Residents stood behind reporters during the news conference as they listened to Fowler and Miner. Two residents pointed out used syringes litter the area — endangering children who live and play in the neighborhood.

Puchalski said his organization believes vacant properties are more than just “eye sores.”

Echoing Fowler and Miner, Puchalski said criminals use vacant buildings to stash drugs and guns. He argued abandoned properties also deter businesses from investing in the area — preventing the revitalization he believes the city needs.

That’s why Puchalski said he plans to continue complaining to Syracuse officials until more vacant buildings are taken down.

“You have your arson fires. People are stashing guns and weapons,” he said. “Heaven help us if somebody gets assaulted in one of them.”

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