Several weeks ago Charles Petty walked outside of his house to ask some young men to leave his property.
When they didn’t like his request, one of the men hit Petty with a tree branch and another shoved him down on the ground. The men beat him until someone came to help and the offenders ran off.
For Petty, that event was what it took to call his neighbors to action, asking them to help take back the streets. On Friday, there was a town hall-style meeting at Hope Station, 149 W. Penn St., where residents were asked to come and share their concerns and suggestions to curb violence in the area.
“What happened to me should happen to nobody,” Petty said. “I think everybody should put their voice and their foot forward to make things happen, because we sat around too long, too many things have happened. Somewhere along the lines we’ve got to do something or things are going to get worse. … I’m sorry I didn’t step up sooner — maybe this could have been prevented — but I’m here now.”
The diverse crowd didn’t waste any time getting into issues such as security cameras, parenting, respect and places for children and teenagers to go after school.
Doris Campbell, 88, was one of the first to speak up. She said she is afraid to bring her garbage out after a certain time because she doesn’t know who will be on the streets. She also said children need a place where they can keep busy and stay out of trouble.
“Memorial Park was built for the kids, but there are parents that won’t let their kids come over here,” Campbell said. “They’re afraid of people coming in here, doing things they’re not
supposed to do. I don’t know whose fault it is, but we have to first (fix) this park, before we can do anything else. … I know there’s a lot that needs to be done, but we need to start with something.”
Brenda Landis, a staff member at Dickinson College, said she moved here four years ago and has been trying to organize an effort to make it safer. She said there are small things people can do every day to help reduce crime and the more people who pitch in, the better things will be.
“Calling the police is one thing, but that’s not the only thing that (we) can do,” she said. “Some (crimes) are very, very small, but I think that if collectively lots of people do them, they can make a difference. Leaving your porch lights on at night, letting the streets be a little more lit … no one wants to pick up the trash other people throw down, but the more trashy our neighborhood looks, the more people will think it’s a trashy neighborhood.”
Carlisle Borough Council members Tim Scott, Linda Cecconello and Robin Guido were in attendance, as well as Mayor Bill Kronenberg. Guido and Kronenberg discussed both sides of the security camera debate. To save some money, cameras will be immobile from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. in 2014, which Kronenberg said he disagrees with, saying that’s when many crimes occur and moveable cameras would be most useful.
“The best witness you can get is the camera system,” he said. “My big concern is, we’re going to lose from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. the use of those cameras and moving them around … if a criminal act happens right in front of them, they’ll pick it right up. … I implore all of you to let your council people know that those cameras are a valuable asset to the people of Carlisle.”
Several residents agreed with that position, but Guido said that the cameras don’t need to be moving around and operated by people in dispatch to catch the crime. She said that in Petty’s case, the cameras weren’t zooming in or moving and the offenders were caught just the same.
“Between 11 o’clock at night and 7 in the morning, those cameras will still roll,” Guido said. “They’ll still be monitoring those same areas. The only time someone can zoom in or change angles, is if they know something is happening, most of the time the crime is reactionary.”
The Rev. Walter Reed stood up and told everyone that while meetings are a great way to discuss things, nothing will ever change unless people stop sitting around and start doing something to end the violence.
“If we don’t start doing something, nothing’s going to get done” he said. “You can meet all you want … but it’s time for somebody to do something and it starts with us. It does not start with the police department, and it doesn’t start with the council and it doesn’t start with the borough, it starts with us living in the neighborhood.”
Detective Daniel Freedman said that the Carlisle Police Department wants to be a part of the solution, and will do what it can to help. With a discussion about neighborhood watch groups being formed, Freedman said the police department would want people to understand that they should not act, but call them if there is a serious threat.
“I agree with a lot of the comments that were said tonight and we are on board with helping as much as we can,” he said. “Any ideas, anything new, anything old, we are always there for (the community). … Anything that you guys think of, please bring it to us.”
Safronia Perry encouraged people to sign up to be a part of the committee, out of Hope Station, to help the group take back their neighborhood. She said the next time the group meets, they will not be discussing the problem, it will be to find a solution to the issue.
“When we meet again, and I want everyone to think about when they can, let’s get some things done,” she said. “That’s the only way we are going to get some things done. There are so many other things that we have here, (let’s) help the community get back to the way it was.”