Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Addressing Issues at Joe Cole Park

Joe Cole Park opened about a year. It's a nice green space, with a terrific spray park. Unfortunately some people have been abusing the park recently, and it's interfering with other's enjoyment of the area. What follows is a letter that went out on multiple local lists, and was forwarded to me by the author. It raises
several concerns, and requests prompt action from MPD, and assistance from Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. Just remember to call the police if you see any of the behaviors mentioned below (ok, not minor littering). If you are hesitant to call (e.g. you don't want to leave the park, and don't want rowdy teens to hear you call) you can always text MPD anonymously at 50411.

Dear Chief Groomes, et. al

I am writing to request police  action to curb the chronic problems that are creating a negative environment for the many children, families, and other neighbors who use the playgrounds, recreation, and school grounds at Wheatley Elementary and Joe Cole Recreation Center at the 1200 block of Neal and Morse streets.

On a regular basis at all hours of the morning, afternoon, early evening, and night I have observed people openly smoking marijuana, gambling, drinking, etc in the middle of the park, in the children's playground areas, on the picnic tables, on the basketball courts, and on the stairs of the recreation center.  The smoke is so thick that it permeates the children's playground areas.  I have also observed people riding motorcycles on the field very close to children, open littering, vandalism, illegal dumping of construction materials in the school dumpsters,  etc.   Needless to say this is not a healthy environment for children, and does not send the right message to children about how to behave in general, much less on an elementary school grounds.

This is a police issue, DPR staff cannot be asked to consistently confront those causing the problems on their own.  From what I can tell the staff does not feel like they have the back up needed from the police to keep the environment healthy for children and the safe for themselves.

Neighbors and I have not received adequate response from 911 calls. Thus, I have begun to brief the Trinidad Neighborhood Association, ANCs, neighborhood parent's groups, Friends of Joe Cole, local bloggers, and am beginning to knock on doors in the neighborhood  to talk with neighbors about the lack of adequate response we have received thus far from the police.  We are working towards a stepped up response from both the police, and also from neighbors.

In the meantime I  request

1. Patrols on foot, bike, or segway during times when there are many children present - especially between the hours of 3:30-8:30- pm on week-days (unless the school leaders have seen problems during the day) and periodically especially on Sundays when the recreation center is closed and negative activity seems to pick up.  Patrols even 2-3 times a week would make a BIG difference.

2.Responses to 911 calls that involve more than just a drive by.  The people causing the problems do not react to the cars.

3. A point of contact in addition to 911 we can use to get a timely response, as well as to share information as conditions shift.

4. A prompt response to this request.

 Neighbors should not have to confront this situation on our own.

Thank you in advance for your response and your work to keep the beautiful park a place for everyone to enjoy.


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this. this has been a issue that has to be addressed. There are several spots in Trinidad where this behavior happens on a regular basis around impressionable kids. Let's hope Police takes this matter seriously.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the attempt to clean up Joe Cole and make it a safe space for families and local children. All the effort on the renovation was wasted if dirty, thoughtless, and ill-intentioned people destroy it or feel entitled to "claim" it for themselves. I've never understood since I moved here why this business isn't conducted inside their homes or their backyards--oh wait, bc the police don't exist here.

But to add, it would be great if they could swing by the very nice & semi-brand new space at the "starburst intersection" (Benning/H/Maryland) a lot more often, too. There are great benches for resting, nice open space, tables, and the bus stops--but it is now an open-air halfway house that makes me wonder why we bother as a city doing anything nice. The folks are sitting in the tree boxes, trampling the vegetation, dealing and doing drugs, and being generally creepy. I get that the entire purpose of the space is to BE a meeting area, a HANGOUT area--but not to meet there for illicit and illegal activities. I can't go to Subway and eat my sandwich at a table in the nice outside--nope. They really need a cop to just stay there 24/7.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, Anon 12:06! I thought it was just me! Every single time I pass by the plaza at the Starburst intersection, I notice dozens of people just loitering, litter everywhere, weeds taking root in the tree boxes and sidewalk, etc. And like you, I've noticed several very obvious drug deals going on in that space as well. It's gotten to the point where I'm very uncomfortable walking past/through that plaza.

Anonymous said...

What are people supposed to do at the Starburst Park, if not loiter?

Yes, it looks like crap, but I don't see anyone doing anything illegal.

Any idea why they never turned on that waterfall that was supposed to be there? Someone said they had a waterfall on the mural wall, but the city never turned it on. Maybe that would discourage some people hanging too close around it.

Anonymous said...

If this city could get some anti-loitering laws, that would be the best solution. Then police could actually enforce said law instead of allowing people like that to go unchecked.

And before anyone says it, anti-loitering laws meant to protect the public from crime are not unconstitutional. It sucks that people get harassed and don't feel safe walking past certain areas and it shouldn't be that way. Whose rights are we really taking away?

Anonymous said...

"I notice dozens of people just loitering, "

What are you talking about? There are benches and tables etc - sitting and resting/talking/playing chess is EXACTLY what is supposed to be going on in a public space like that. Take a serious look inward and see if you aren't being racist and or classist.

This is why we can't have nice things said...

It's not just the park. I've had to repeatedly call the police due to the activities of children... not kids in their late teens but children that look to be no older than about 10.

Throwing bottles and cans at the windows of the Rec Center, lighting off fireworks (not little firecrackers - roman candles) and generally vandalizing the buildings, grounds and the adjacent basketball court. I've even watched exasperated school officials have to chase the kids out of the buildings after hours due to their vandalism.

This of course has bled over across the street where cars and property have been vandalized as well. Bricks from planters and yards stolen and thrown, and the like.

The real issue here is lack of parental supervision - although I've noticed many times when parents (or what appear to be parents) are present they are oblivious.

As far as the trolling comment about "looking inward" to check for "racist" or "classist[sic]" innuendos, I'm not sure openly complaining about flagrant disregard for common decency is racist or classist.

I'm all about paying high taxes for nice things - I just don't like see them pissed on, figuratively and literally.

MJ said...

There seem to be two separate issues here- 1) people involved in illegal activities (drugs, vandalism, throwing rocks) and 2) people doing the same thing that you want to do (loiter in Starburst Park) but you don't want to interact with em. #1 is an issue we need to address and we should enlist the cops and neighborhood resources, #2 is an issue you'll have to come to grips with yourself.

Alan Page said...

I have never seen motorcycles at Joe Cole, but I have seen kids smoking weed on the benches and I have had conversations with a few kids about loitering on the soccer field when I'm about to play there with my daughter. I also had to help a younger child retrieve a ball that was "borrowed without permission" by one of the older children. I hope the community becomes more involved with the park, someone knows all of those kids there and they'll take advice from adults they know moreso than strangers.

I'm not sure if more kids going to jail is the best solution (which is sure to result from increased police presence), but it sure would be nice to see some of the older people on the blocks these kids come from come out to the park to help supervise things more.

Anonymous said...

Goddamn this neighborhood is getting white and uptight.

- a white guy

Anonymous said...

I for one am NOT in favor of any anti-loitering laws or encouraging the police to patrol around and harass people. The parks are there for hanging out AKA loitering. The police are not your personal goon squad to run off those who you don't like. Their job is to investigate crimes after they occur and make arrests of the guilty.

If you feel like something needs to be done about unsupervised children running amok in the local parks, go down there yourself and supervise them. I doubt they are going to cut your throat or gang rape you. However, if they do then at that point we will have a job for the police and I will support hauling the offenders off to jail.

For all these people who don't feel comfortable walking through these areas or eating sandwiches nearby, what that sounds like to me is a personal problem. See a shrink and figure out how to get over your paranoia. Until you do stfu and stop trying to impose a police state on the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Asking the police to do something about the cloud of marijuana smoke hovering over the children's playground = "trying to impose a police state"?

Wow. Just . . .WOW.

Anonymous said...

"cloud of marijuana smoke hovering" aren't we being a little dramatic here? exaggerating just a bit?

and it's weed which is not particularly high on the drug enforcement agency's list.

Klaus said...

Not being a fan of vandalism != being an uptight white guy.

You people are unbelievable. Yeah, I mean you people.

inked said...

Ok,pot might not exactly be high on the dangerous drug list, but you shouldn't be smoking at a playground. I'm pretty sure we can also all agree that drug dealing, or acting like a hooligan in a public park is a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:00pm, no, I'm not exaggerating a little bit. I'm simply quoting the original letter to the police above, which reads "The smoke is so thick that it permeates the children's playground areas."

Anonymous said...

There is definitely some truth to the letter but there is also a lot of exaggeration. If you want to be taken seriously don't stretch the truth so much. Cause when the cops start showing up and there's no motorcycle chasing kids around the field they're going to think you're a looney.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the letter. It is all fact - no exaggeration.

I am all for EVERYONE being able to hang out at the park. Hanging out is what a park is for.

What I am against is my 15 month old (and the other kids at the park) not being able to play without people smoking marijuana on or right next to the playground. No matter what folks think about marijuana in general - can we agree that it does not belong on an elementary school playground?

I am also against having to clear my kid from the ball field because someone is riding a motorcycle around on it. This happened and the rider cursed me out when I asked him not to ride his motorcycle close to the children. Can we all agree a motorcycle should be ridden in the street not on the turf field?

Some preemptive patrols would make a big difference. I have already noticed improvements since they have stepped up patrols.


Fred Olmstead said...

Everybody knows you're supposed to loiter and sell drugs at the intersection of West Virginia and Mt. Olivet where NO ONE will care.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about Joe Cole, but the Starburst Intersection is a disgrace. All of the lights were broken out within a month of the plaza being completed, it's overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash, and DDOT can't seem to decide if there is a fountain there or not. Maybe it will improve with new developments like the Flats at Atlas.

Hey, that's an idea. Flats at Atlas, why don't you offer to help maintain the Starburst? The better that intersection looks the better you will do.

Anonymous said...

"No matter what folks think about marijuana in general - can we agree that it does not belong on an elementary school playground?"

Apparently, no, we cannot -- there are people here who think that's just fine, and attempting to stop it is equivalent to "trying to impose a police state."

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if you haven't seen it lately, the Starburst intersection plaza is looking pretty haggard these days. Completely overgrown with weeds, trash everywhere (despite 3-4 trash cans and a recycling bin installed in the plaza), etc. In all seriousness, a friend visiting the city about a month ago commented as we passed by the plaza, "Sheesh, they really need to clean this place up." When I told her that it actually was only about a year or two old, her mouth just dropped.

Anonymous said...

"As far as the trolling comment about "looking inward" to check for "racist" or "classist[sic]" innuendos, I'm not sure openly complaining about flagrant disregard for common decency is racist or classist."

Hey, moron. I'm not talking about people involved in things that are illegal. I was talking about the previous comment where the poster was upset that people were "loitering" at Starburst intersection -- NOT committing any sort of crime. If they are just sitting there (NOT lighting fireworks or whatever) and you have a problem with that - then you have a problem. We are talking about two entirely different things.

And I am not a troll.

Anonymous said...

I agree that weed should not be smoked on a kid's playground.

It should be smoked inside the comforts of your home. Every day

Daz said...

Nate Dogg lives!

Diane on I said...

When I was visiting the spray park with my 5 year old granddaughter we had to leave way too soon as the kids were shooting pop bottle rockets at us and others in the park. While those are very illegal shooting them into the air, they are even more dangerous when directed at folks sitting on the bench. These young tweens and teens don't seem to care and run wild and loose all over the place.
I did not call 911 from the park, but did when I left as they could definitely harm someone.

Anonymous said...

This happens every time--someone comments that they wish our neighbors would have common manners and respect for public locations (i.e. throw trash in the bin, not the sidewalk) and are told they are racist or classist. The first poster mentioning the intersection, from what I read, mentioned that he/she understood the purpose was to be a hang out area, but not for illicit activities. Illicit: disapproved of or not permitted for moral or ethical reasons.

Throwing trash on the ground, being publicly drunk, trampling vegetation, and sitting inside tree boxes all fall under that, as well as the obvious selling of drugs and pan-handling. The playing of chess, waiting for a bus, or visiting with your friends no matter what I think of their fashion sense does not.

Being clean and respectful is not a matter of race, religion, financial means, or education. Those may contribute to one's understanding of the varying required degrees of publicly cleanliness and behavior, but a brand new park and/or brand new public space should not be allowed to be rebranded and acquired for the sole purpose of vagrancy, drug use, and intoxication leading to claims of racism for those who have manners and respect for everyone's right to use the space.

The loitering laws in DC are problematic and poverty plays a role, but part of giving people hope is giving them a decent place for their children and themselves to socialize, exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and feel a sense of community. This desire to have nice things is not racist, its universal, unless of course you prefer a degrading, depressing atmosphere in which to carry out your degrading, depressing, and unsavory behavior. Nobody wants that except the criminals.

Hillman said...

The Starburst is a travesty.

It was supposed to be an attractive

The only way to get action is to take photos and edmail them to Councilmembers and to heads of DDOT / DPR or whoever is responsible.

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% with Anon 11:52.

If you think wanting to have a well-kept, safe public space is racist...well then you're the one who needs to get a grip.

Also, for anyone who says that loitering isn't a problem if the people are "just sitting there", you're obviously not a female. As a female I have been harassed multiple times on a daily basis by men just "sitting there." Sure, no one has ever physically harmed me, but it is still very very unnerving to have to walk through a group of men "just sitting there" who proceed to make extremely rude and intimidating comments. I have taken to avoiding certain areas because it just doesn't feel safe. Why should I, or any other woman have to put up with that crap? It's absolutely ridiculous...

IMGoph said...

i want public spaces to be in pristine, wonderful condition too, and i'd love it if i didn't have to raise a finger to make it so, but that's not how things work.

sometimes, you need to put in a little elbow grease and "be the change you seek."

don't like the weeds in the treeboxes in the starburst? pull them out then.

if someone gives you a stink-eye, just smile back and keep going.

Anonymous said...

i am becoming more, not less, classist and racist the longer i live in this neighborhood. that said, i love my neighborhood and my neighbors regardless of their $ status or skin hue. its all of the other ahole scumbags that make parts of our community look like a shithole. there is a pervasive disregard for our neighborhood by some. i dont get the filth, the lack of any degree of pride in one's neighborhood, the ease with which people throw trash at their feet as they walk down the street cause they are too damn lazy to carry it the five steps to a trashcan. i was raised poor. but i was raised to take pride in what little i had. and to respect my neighborhood, not trash it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9/19 6:04, you must have been reading my mind.

Anonymous said...

and i do maintain the public space on my block, plant and garden in the sidewalk green space, pick up the trash left by careless jerks each and every day, bring flowers to my elderly neighbors, watch out for my neighbors kids as they cross the street on their way to school. it is not about us doing more for our community. it is about seeing others piss on that which you love with such little regard and with often almost a gleeful desire to destroy. i am not sure how to rid our neighborhood of these awful, awful people but it will be a glorious day when they are gone. if that is percieved as gentrification or whatever, so be it. i think that taking a shithole and making it beautful is a good thing regardless of the skin color of the person doing it.

thelonious said...

To return to the ostensible topic of this post, has there been any response to the letter to the cops on Joe Cole park? And what else can those of us who are in agreement with it do?

Anonymous said...

As to the park at the starburst intersection: I agree that "hanging out" or "loitering" is precisely what it is supposed to be used for, however, it seems to me that the amount of trash that results and is left is beyond the pale. This is partly a story of the "tragedy of the commons", but the entire neighborhood would be better of if EVERYONE claimed responsibility for keeping it clean and safe. Cleanliness and safety are not racial issues; they are people issues.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the original email and am happy to brief all on the response we have received so far from Chief Groomes (there has been progress) and to work together on the work to come.

There is also an informal group that gets together every Thursday from 6:30ish - 8ish. It is informal so just bring a bag and get to work.