Royal OakJune 18, 2012
Safe Neighborhood forum features local law experts
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Everyone wants to feel safe in the community where they live, and that is one of many reasons City Commissioner Peggy Goodwin has worked to put together a Safe Neighborhood Community Dialogue gathering next week.
Hosted by Royal Oak Middle School, 709 N. Washington, the gathering runs from 6:30-8:30 p.m. June 27 and will feature several public officials working to educate up to 900 residents about the ins and outs of the law, how people can protect themselves and how to avoid blighted neighborhood appearances, among other items.
“I think people are way too busy and there’s so much information coming at us that people don’t understand how everything in the community fits,” Goodwin said. “I think transparency builds trust. It’ll be information for people and the more information the better. The key is to stay active or get active in your neighborhood. People should feel very comfortable coming to this.”
Among those scheduled as panelists are Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Russ Marlan, and members of Royal Oak Youth Assistance and Royal Oak Community Coalition, along with several others.
“I think it’s a great idea. It’s a nice venue for this,” O’Donohue said. “The main goal is hopefully to encourage some community involvement in keeping Royal Oak safe, from my point of view. I think it’s important people know that, despite some high-profile news items, Royal Oak is still a very safe community.”
Some of those concerning items include the murder of 80-year-old Nancy Dailey, allegedly by two parole absconders, as well as the K2/Spice uproar that saw the drug banned by a city ordinance earlier this month.
“I think … people should be more enlightened. What struck me was the level of trust where people put themselves in harm’s way,” Goodwin said. “There are parole absconders everywhere, but you can’t live in fear. Eighty percent of prisoners come home and the goal is to not get them to re-offend, but people are people.”
A neighborhood watch is one way to help avoid problems, but, with the police liaison position dropped during budget cuts, many neighborhood associations have also disappeared.
“We have some extremely active associations and other (neighborhoods) just don’t have associations at all,” O’Donohue said. “If we build this department back up, that’s one of the positions we’d bring back. Police provide one aspect of a neighborhood association. It can’t be the only aspect. If you look at it, you probably have a few very hard-working volunteers.”
O’Donohue said the liaison position was beneficial because it gave residents a name, face and phone number to connect with local law enforcement. He said many people opt to not call police in suspicious situations due to a feeling of intimidation or simply ignoring an instance as something that isn’t major on the surface, when it actually could be.
“If you have a question about something, you’re not necessarily going to go to a commission meeting to get an answer to it. It seemed like the right time,” Goodwin said. “With these kind of forums, it’s a good problem to have if we run a little late.”
Goodwin said the first 45 minutes would be dedicated to presentations from the panelists, followed by a question-and-answer session where residents can ask a wide range of questions dealing with law enforcement, ordinances or any number of other concerns or inquiries.
“I had actually organized quite a few of these in other cities over the past couple years,” Goodwin said. “Whatever we can do to help prevent crime, that is a big side of it. To feel more empowered with their community and to get involved or stay involved. I think the more people can get their information and not rely on rumor or gossip, (the better).”
Resource tables with information on starting a neighborhood watch, as well as the services provided by the Royal Oak Youth Assistance and Royal Oak Community Coalition, will also be available at the gathering.
The Royal Oak Senior Center will provide senior transportation in a 19-person van, as well as with assistance from volunteer drivers. To schedule pickups between 5:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. for the 6:30 p.m. event, contact Paige Gembarski at (248) 246-3900.
For those who cannot attend, Goodwin said the evening’s discussion would be recorded by WROK for television and online viewing at www.ci.royal-oak.mi.us.
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