Pubdate: Wed, 11 Apr 2001
Source: Chatham This Week (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001 Bowes Publishers Limited
Author: Ellwood Shreve


East side Chatham residents can expect to see regular patrols by a 
citizens' group watching for illegal activities such as drug dealing and 

East Side Pride took part in their first "Community Stroll" on April 6, 
through a neighbourhood the group says has been taken over by drug dealers, 
drug addicts and prostitution.

East Side Price co-chair Marjorie Crew said the purpose of the community 
strolls is to be a visible deterrent in a non-violent, non-confrontational 
manner. She said the group is simply "just being out here to tell people 
we're not going to allow that unwanted behaviour."

Crew said the course of action is to document any incidents East Side Pride 
observes and contact the proper authorities. She added that members of East 
Side Pride are also willing to act as witnesses in court cases, if need be. 
"We just want people to know we're out here looking at you, instead of you 
looking at us, and we're watching you."

But not everyone who has been watching East Side Pride has been impressed 
by what they've seen.

Leslie Reycraft was among a group of neighbourhood residents sitting on the 
porch of a Park Street home when members of East Side Pride strolled by 
along with members of the Chatham-Kent Police Service, Councillor Bill 
Weaver and members of the  When asked if she's noticed a change in the 
neighbourhood since East Side Pride was formed in July 1999, Reycraft said, 
"Things haven't changed much ... there's still drugs all over." She said 
the J.G. Taylor Park is still a popular place for people to do drugs.  A 
teenager who was among the group also didn't seem to have any faith that 
East Side Pride will be able to make a difference. "This area is the ghetto 
man, it will always be that way," he said, while Chatham This Week spoke 
with Reycraft about the neighbourhood.

Another East side resident, Chester Baylis, doesn't believe the drug 
situation is as bad as East Side Pride is making out to be. He'd like to 
see the police focus more attention on the motor vehicles that she says 
routinely speed along Park Street.

But there are East side residents who are glad to see the citizens' group 
patrolling the streets. Betty Lane, who has raised six children over the 
last 42 years in her Park Street home, told Chatham This Week, "I agree 
with (the community strolls), I want my neighbourhood back."

Lane said she knows a number of neighbours who would like to see the 
neighbourhood "back to where it was before, where it was safe to walk the 
streets without seeing drug dealers and prostitutes."

She said she knows of a family who moved from the area when their teenage 
son was approached by a drug dealer in the middle of the afternoon. 
"They're very defiant, really."

Crew said she has received positive feedback, but knows there will be some 
"yeas and nays" to the community strolls. And it doesn't appear any 
detractors will be deterring East Side Pride from its goal.

"We'll do it as long as it takes, and we'll keep doing it to maintain it 
once we've achieved the goal," says Crew.  Chatham-Kent Police Services 
Const. Dave Bakker applauds the efforts of East Side Pride's plan to 
increase their presence in the community. "I feel it's a good idea because 
they're taking responsibility for what's happening in their community, 
rather thanjust calling the police constantly ... That way the people in 
the area start making a change and making a difference in their own community."

Const. Bakker, whose responsibility as a member of the Community Priority 
Action Team has been working with East Side Pride, knows first-hand that 
this kind of visible presence can work. When he started as a police officer 
in 1987, he worked with the Parkdale Action Committee, a citizens' group 
that was successful in cleaning up one of the worst neighbourhoods in 
Toronto, where drugs, prostitution and alcoholic vagrants ran wild.

Const. Bakker said the citizens of that neighbourhood took to the streets 
every night, rain or shine, carrying signs and lights, and made the johns, 
prostitutes and those involved in drugs know they were unwelcome.

"They just made pests of themselves to everybody walking the streets and 
eventually they cleaned the whole area of Parkdale up," said Const. Bakker.

He says it's a shame a park like J.G. Taylor is not used more by the 
residents. If East Side Pride can reclaim areas like the park, hopefully 
other residents will begin using it again. "Once (residents) start coming 
back then they've won."
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