Photo by Heather Middleton
By Jeylin White
Law enforcement officials and city leaders in Riverdale will address the safety concerns of residents, members of neighborhood watch groups and the business community this Saturday, during a meeting at Riverdale's new City Hall building, located at 7200 Church Street.
The gathering is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
"I'm just really excited about connecting with our citizens, said Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon, about what is being called the "Neighborhood and Business Crime Watch and Prevention Meeting."
The gathering will feature keynote speakers such as Wynn-Dixon, Riverdale Police Chief Samuel F. Patterson, and Lt. Nicole Rabel, who is the police liaison for Riverdale.
Chief Patterson, who is also public safety director, said the purpose of the meeting is to bring community members, and all of the neighborhood watch groups and businesses to one central location, to address any safety concerns citizens may have -- "before they escalate."
"We're are invested to make neighborhoods safe," he said. "If we're in touch with the community, we can respond before it's a major issue."
He added that idea for the meeting came from the mayor, who is always looking for ways to reach out to the community, businesses and residents alike. From her request, Patterson said, he pulled together the resources,
and invited all the neighborhood watch groups, who are affiliated with the police department.
"The police department interacts with the community," he said, "and the community interacts with the police department."
"We felt we needed to educate people, and hear their questions and concerns," added Mayor Wynn-Dixon. During the meeting, she said, law enforcement officials will give residents and businesses tips on keeping safe, while in their homes and neighborhoods.
"Crime is everywhere, and we just have to take the time and educate [people] as a whole," she said.
According to Patterson, while major crimes of violence seem to be down significantly, he has seen a rise in thefts and shoplifting. "Shoplifting seems to be the crime of choice, today," he said, adding that the spike in that crime may have a lot to do with the economic downturn of recent years. "People are just getting more and more desperate to meet their needs," he said.
"People are stealing, because they are in a survival mode," said Patterson. "People stealing food is an testimony of the conditions of our society. This is a sad truth, but it's a reality. People are hungry, and they are willing to risk their liberty, just to feed their families."
Mayor Wynn-Dixon said she sees the problem of stealing a bit differently. The economy is only a part of the reason. "People tend to make a lot of excuses," she said.. "People have been shoplifting food for years. Individuals, who are truly homeless, know where to go and get the assistance they need."
While thefts have been increasing, Patterson said, violent crime has diminished significantly. "We're not seeing as much violent crime, such as rapes and murders," he said. "Which is a good thing."
The city leaders said they are anticipating a good turnout from the community, at the meeting. "We certainly think every neighborhood will be represented," said Patterson. "This will also be a great opportunity for the community to see the new City Hall building."
Mayor Wynn-Dixon said she hopes the meeting will provide the information residents need to feel safe, and to help bring back a sense of pride to the City of Riverdale. "To the people who don't have good intentions, coming to our city," she said, "I want them to know our citizens and police are on the watch."
She added that, as her grandmother use to say, "We're not going to make it easy for you."