ELKHART — Elkhart police met with residents in Roosevelt Park Friday to discuss issues in the neighborhood in the wake of a shooting just down the street recently.
About a dozen residents and staff from LaCasa’s Roosevelt Center, which sits adjacent to the park, and residents from the surrounding neighborhood gathered at the park’s pavilion with Sgt. Wayne Bias of the Elkhart Police Department’s Community Affairs Bureau and Assistant Chief Laura Koch.
“Last week, or the week before, I got wind of some issues here,” Bias said. “We’re here to find the issues and brainstorm solutions.”
LaCasa residents and staff called the park “the epicenter, the hub” for criminal activity in the area and asked for a more visible police presence in the area.
LaCasa staff spend about two hours each day cleaning up trash including drug paraphernalia, broken glass and used condoms from the park, said Jason Moreno, a community organizer with LaCasa.
Residents said they see people in the park, which closes at 11 p.m., at all hours of the night, many of them apparently smoking marijuana.
Bias said he checked police call records and found no reports of drug use in the park in 2012 and just one call so far in 2013.
“We’re your legs to fix the issues you point out to us,” Bias said. “I’d rather that you (call and) be wrong and us come out here.”
“The bad guys are banking on you not calling (the police),” he said.
Tips can be submitted anonymously to the Elkhart Police Department at (574) 295-7070.
Residents suggested police make their presence in the area more visible with regular patrols past the park and adding foot patrols.
“We need more cop-citizen interaction,” one resident said.
Officers from the Community Affairs Bureau often attend neighborhood events in uniform when they have been invited, Bias said.
“The fire department will also come to events,” he said. “That’s one more uniform.”