Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Avondale 'sweep' offers hope

Residents seek safe community

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        About a year ago, Christine Patel stopped making the two-block trek from her house to the Avondale post office. She also stopped driving at night. The neighborhood had become too drug-infested.

        She has hope, though, that Tuesday's five-hour “sweep” of her neighborhood by more than 60 city of Cincinnati employees will be the catalyst for a safer environment.

        By summer, the attorney for the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office said she hopes that her family will be able to move more freely in the area.

        “I'm happy that they're trying to turn this part of the neighborhood around,” said Mrs. Patel, 35.

        During Tuesday's sweep, which targeted Burnet, Dury, Erkenbrecher, Harvey and Forest avenues:

        • Public Works employees removed graffiti, swept streets, provided Dumpsters and removed litter and weeds from vacant lots.

        • Firefighters handed out smoke detectors and free batteries.

        • Police officers ticketed vehicles parked illegally.

        • Health and building inspectors issued code violations.

        Boarded-up buildings, drug activity and loiterers, residents say, have created the blighted area.

        “The cleanup is definitely needed,” said Priscilla Sanders, 36, who reluctantly allowed four firefighters into her home for an inspection.

        Good thing she did. They checked the smoke detector in her kitchen. They found no batteries. So firefighters installed a new one. And before that, crews removed appliances from in front of her house. When she got the letter notifying residents of the sweep, she moved the junk from her backyard, where it sat for several months.

        “I hope they keep this up,” said Ms. Sanders, whose Hearne Avenue home sits near Burnet Avenue, where the city is trying to develop a business district.

        The sweep was in re sponse to concerns by the Avondale Community Council, Avondale Public Safety Task Force, Burnet Area Business Association, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ronald McDonald House and the Cincinnati Zoo.

        Cincinnati City Councilman Todd Portune, who was among several council members who spoke before the sweep, said “no matter what the city does, the strength of a neighborhood is its people ... that's where you begin.”

        Tom Jones, chairman of the task force, called Tuesday's collaborative effort a “total success.”

        “(Residents) want to see this community improve,” Mr. Jones said. “This is giving them new hope that this community will come back.”


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