My last entry was posted at the beginning of June and as the school year was winding to a close. In it, I encouraged Cleveland Height residents to offer employment options to local teenagers in an effort to occupy their free time and to keep them busy, hence the title – Keep Heights Beautiful – because whether we’d rather admit it or not, bored teenagers and lots of idle time can be a recipe for all sorts of not-so-fun stuff, such as property damage and fighting.
Well, there are some things that aren’t looking too fun this summer.
For the second time (that I am aware of) this month, Cleveland Heights’ riot truck has been spotted parked on Coventry Road in an effort to waylay potential troublemakers from taking liberties with their idle time, the latest occurrence being after the Coventry Street Fair on June 26th. Unconfirmed by police but witnessed by personal associates was the use of force against teenagers after a sound such as that of gunfire occurred. The first occurrence approximately two weeks ago appears to have been spurred by technology. Research (meaning a call to CHPD and perusing of my daughter’s facebook page) shows that there was an active campaign to initiate a derivative of a flash mob/kickback party. I was there during part of this event to check on my children and witnessed the crowd firsthand. The sight was overwhelming as hundreds of teenagers packed Coventry from Euclid Heights Boulevard to Mayfield. From what I witnessed, there was not much interest by the teenagers in causing much more than revelry during this “kickback”, but hundreds of any bodies jam packed on Coventry makes for an uncomfortable evening regardless.
It is my belief that many of these kids strolling up and down Coventry are looking for something to do. They’re bored and Coventry, with its eclectic and Bohemian atmosphere, is the type of area where people can congregate with no specific purpose in mind. Locals more saturated in the area’s history than, I touted a time when Coventry was likened to the west coast haven of Haight Ashbury, where hippies and flower power reigned. I imagine during that time, there were some instances of not-so-fun stuff as well, when local merchants and residents weren’t fond of sharing their environment with purposeful-less, unemployed and ungrounded young adults who were as anti-establishment and anti-capitalistic as they have always been portrayed. They share a bit of commonality with the bored teenagers of today – non-consumerists with too much free time on their hands, except that one group was a bit more pale than the other. But I don’t think that mattered much in the categorization of ne’er-do-wells versus do-wells.
As we venture further into the dog days of summer, it is my hope that if the recent assemblages are perceived as hindrances to the vitality of the Coventry area, we become as proactive as possible to offer alternatives other than simply parking a riot truck in front of Marc’s. The events of the past few weeks have aroused concern for a good number of parents. I admittedly am not aware to what degree the saturation of teens has affected local merchants or whether rumors and retelling are completely accurate, but we must acknowledge that Coventry is appealing for a reason. I too have spent many an evening drifting from one shop to another for hours on end. So have my children. If the area is to remain vibrant, it must be able to attract its base while at the same time effectively managing those who may not yet have the resources to invest in the area to the degree that we might prefer.
If there are troublemakers, deal with the troublemakers on a case-by-case basis. But let’s look for ways to share a community jewel while at the same time engendering a sense of community in our students who are well on their way to becoming productive citizens.