Flash Mobs

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Teenage crime, unruly behavior and so called “flash mobs” in Cleveland Heights and surrounding cities have been a real challenge to the spirit of our community this summer. Since the emergency curfew was enacted in an attempt to restore public safety in the Coventry and Cedar Lee business districts, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to citizens, business owners and our city officials. We’ve shared ideas and concerns, and tried hard to separate fact from fiction. Here are some observations and suggestions I believe can help.
• We need to learn a lot more from professionals and academics about the “effects of social media” on our young people. Many of us simply don’t know what we are talking about because we aren’t big users of social media. And the connection between our city government and the police department with the “Youth of Coventry,” an organized group of local young people who want to help, needs to be nurtured and grown very quickly.
• Engage all the stakeholders in creating a “knowledge and response” plan. We need the merchants associations, our young people, the police and city officials, and willing citizens and community groups to assist. We should support, encourage and facilitate the process, which could be done with minimal expense. We must pledge cooperation and communication.
• Develop an on the ground “virtual eyes and ears” program involving key stakeholders. Bring together business owners, concerned citizens, the police and city officials, and other volunteers such as the “Youth of Coventry” to monitor the affected areas using the same technology (Twitter, text messaging, and Facebook) as the instigators. With proper protocol, and standard reporting procedures, this could ultimately provide an “early warning system” that may be more effective than the cameras planned for installation on Coventry, which are a fixed, one dimensional tool.
• Our Chief of Police and Public Safety Director should work proactively with their neighboring counterparts, and other identified teen behavior experts to quickly accumulate best practices for preventing teenage flash mobs from occurring and disrupting events, harming business and damaging residential properties. Peacefully diffusing situations with large numbers of teenagers present is critical, also. They should publicize identified best practices to aid public understanding.
• Continuously review all elements of the “emergency” ordinance. We need to assure every citizen that while we are endeavoring to ensure their safety, we will also protect their individual rights. Add a sunshine provision to the ordinance and emphasize that our intent is to return to normal curfews as soon as possible. People need to know that we are targeting a certain date to restore norms and that we have confidence in the solutions we implement.
• Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Keep all stakeholders continuously informed about what is happening, why it is occurring, and what we are doing about it.

Comments

  1. says

    I especially appreciate points 2 and 3 in your post; they encourage an active role for members of the community in partnership with the police department. While this heightened level of interactivity isn’t unprecedented, it is typically uncomfortable at first for law enforcement. But it would allow us, as residents, to feel empowered and proactive in maintaining our safety. And in time, it might heal the city’s regional reputation as a dangerous speed trap – a perception that, right or wrong, is bad for our economy and our future.

  2. says

    Thanks for the feedback, Bob. Not only are we considered a speed trap by many folks, several residents I’ve talked to in the past couple of weeks that have told me they are very concerned about their safety and are seriously thinking of leaving, and don’t find the curfew at all re-assuring. This is very troublesome and all the more reason for city council to make sure we are keeping everyone well informed of all the steps being taken beyond the curfew, and that we are confident we can maintain public safety and order. I sincerely hope we are able to relax the curfew to some extent by the end of the summer. We could use that kind of good news about our city.

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