September 17, 2005
By STEPHANIE REITZ, Courant Staff Writer
Robert Scott stood quietly Friday in front of his Enfield Street
home, contemplating the whirl of activity in his North End neighborhood.
As he watched, front-end loaders scooped up brush and trash
from a gutter. Nearby, city workers armed with lawn trimmers
and hedge clippers tackled thick tufts of weeds lining the broken-down
fence in front of an abandoned house.
"We try hard to keep it clean here," said Scott, standing
in front of his recently renovated three-family home. "But
I see cars come up, open their doors, out comes the trash and then
they're gone. All the time, the trash comes here from people who
don't live here."
Huge piles of that trash were hauled away Friday, part of a
cleanup program that Hartford police launched in July under the
Northeast Violence Reduction Initiative. The block-by-block cleanups
have occurred in impoverished neighborhoods at least once a week
Sgt. Emory Hightower, who coordinates the cleanups, said the
goal is to improve residents' quality of life while making the
areas unattractive to drug dealers and users, prostitutes, petty
thieves and others whose actions tarnish the North End.
"When we do this, we're not here as an occupier shutting
off the street for a crime scene," Hightower said Friday,
looking down the block toward the cleanup. "We're here as
part of their community, showing people that we have pride in
their neighborhood and they should, too."
Police conduct the cleanups with the city's public works crews,
health and human services department, licensing and inspection
specialists, building inspectors and other agencies.
"We notice that once we start doing this, a lot of the
residents come out with their brooms and join right in," said
Stewart Isaac, a public works supervisor.
While cleanup crews tackle the trash, weeds and other debris,
public health sanitation inspector Naomi McKoy checks rear yards
for illegal dumping, rat-friendly abandoned mattresses, junked
cars and other public health hazards.
Since early July, more than 50 junked cars have been removed
from private property throughout the city, denying havens to
rodents and reducing the places where criminals can hide drugs
Cleanups have occurred on Barbour, Garden and Woodland streets;
Homestead Avenue; several other North End streets; and streets
in the Frog Hollow and Barry Square neighborhoods.
Additional cleanups are scheduled over the next few weeks in
North End neighborhoods. They will taper off this fall by necessity
when the weather cools and the public works crews are diverted
to leaf collection.
Even several of the most dedicated homeowners on Enfield Street
admitted Friday that keeping the area tidy is a challenge.
Some of their homes are sandwiched between abandoned properties
with absentee landlords. Others say they do the best they can
to maintain and improve their homes, but juggle those costs against
other bills and slim incomes.
Diana Carter, whose family purchased their Enfield Street home
in 1999, stood on her front sidewalk Friday, framed by the flowers
blooming around her front door, and watched the city cleanup
crews in action.
Almost every day, she finds debris from an abandoned house next
door - a crumbling structure owned by a California bank - that
either blows into her driveway or is dropped there by vagrants.
Seeing her tax dollars used Friday to help that effort was a
welcome sight, she said.
"This is a good start," Carter said. "We
try to keep up the house, we try to keep up the yard, but every
day it's hard."