Patrols in Washington Gardens topic of meeting Thursday in Elkhart

Restoration of police presence has been sought since May and upcoming meeting is not a response to recent incidents, officials say.

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 7:25 p.m.

ELKHART – Police patrols in Washington Gardens could be restored within weeks if an agreement between Elkhart Housing Authority and the city can be finalized.

The Elkhart Housing Authority will meet Thursday, July 17, and will vote on whether to agree to use housing authority money to pay for patrols for the troubled apartment complex, according to several people.

Some residents and city officials have sought to restore patrols since May.

Talk of a new agreement Monday comes one day after a shooting in the apartment complex left one man injured Sunday night.

According to police, a 27-year-old man was hospitalized for an injury that was described Sunday night as non-life-threatening. Officials believe the shooting occurred in Washington Gardens, but the victim was found on Indiana Avenue on Sunday night.

The timing of Thursday’s meeting and recent crime-related incidents appears to be coincidental.

The board had not been scheduled to meet until Aug. 21, but action on the matter was sought by Dan Boecher, a housing authority board member who said waiting another month to decide would slow down efforts to establish patrols during the rest of the summer months.

Plans to move forward with the request have been in the works for some time, Boecher said.

The meeting is not a reaction to concerns voiced last week about police relations involving residents of the 100 block of Garfield Avenue or Sunday’s shooting, he said.

Boecher, along with Mayor Dick Moore and housing authority executive director Kim Sindle, all declined to talk about specific details of what the plan might include before the board meets Thursday.

Prior to this year, the housing authority and city had had an agreement in which the agency paid the city for patrols, but that ended last year when the agency was informed that it could no longer use federal dollars to pay for police patrols.

What remains unclear is how the housing authority plans to pay for the patrols and whether that is any different than in the past.

A request to restore patrols was made in May after an area resident, Dionell Hill, took the issue to city council and the housing authority.

City councilwoman Tonda Hines, whose sixth district includes Washington Gardens, has been seeking a restoration of patrols and wrote a letter to the housing authority in May saying a police presence is needed to provide a sense of safety and minimize crime.

Upon hearing about Thursday’s meeting, Hines welcomed it as “good news.”

She also discounted any suggestion that it comes in response to recent troubles.

“The urgency is that it’s summer,” Hines said referring to the fact crime tends to be higher in the warmer months of the year.

Moore said in the past the city paid the off-duty officer and was reimbursed by the housing authority.

The difference in what is being considered this week, Moore said, is that the new arrangement would have the housing authority pay officers directly.

“The PD will work with the (housing authority) as far as scheduling is concerned,” Moore said in an email to The Truth Monday.

Thursday’s meeting will be the third this week that will touch on crime and other related concerns involving the city’s near-south side.

On Tuesday night, July 15, residents and city representatives will meet at the Historic Roosevelt Center to address crime and more. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

On Friday, July 18, residents of Garfield Avenue will meet with police and city leaders in an effort to ease tensions and establish a dialogue after a city police officer was injured in a fight July 3.

Police have since fended off claims of excessive patrols and harassment in the area afterward.

Friday’s meeting was the result of work by area ministers.


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