By JASON NEVEL (firstname.lastname@example.org) The State Journal-Register
When someone asks Springfield Deputy Police Chief Cliff Busher about ways to clean up their neighborhood, he points them to residents of Enos Park.
Buscher said the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association has developed a blueprint for ways to make a residential area a safer place to live.
In September, the association began hiring off-duty police officers as a way to increase law enforcement presence in the historic neighborhood on Springfield’s near north end. The officers are paid from money raised through the group’s annual pie sale.
On any given night, that can mean up to four off-duty officers patrolling the 36 square blocks Enos Park encompasses.
Steve Combs, association president, said the effort has already paid off. So far, he said, the increased patrols have led to eight arrests and three citations. With a greater police presence, Combs said it sends the message to problem tenants in the neighborhood’s abundance of rental units — shape up or face punishment.
“This is another tool in our belt,” Combs said. “It provides a lot of visibility. That visibility in and of itself may not always chalk up as an arrest, fine or citation, but it serves as a deterrent.”
Serves as deterrent
Off-duty officers in Enos Park work alongside John Dorsey, the neighborhood patrol officer for Beat 800.
Rather than going from call to call, the NPO works closely with neighborhood associations to resolve problems within the community.
Since September, Dorsey said off-duty officers have been used once or twice each month as a way to beef up the police presence in Enos Park.
He said they cannot be dispatched to other calls and will spend all their time policing the neighborhood in marked squad cars.
Dorsey said the extra police presence can go a long way in preventing future problems. Just knowing there are more police in the area can deter people from breaking into homes or stealing copper from air conditioners, he said.
Another benefit of having off-duty officers available is they can help him out on special details, Dorsey said.
In Enos Park, people can call a 24-hour hotline — 217-787-ENOS — to report disturbances or suspicious people in the neighborhood.
Dorsey said he’s used that information to organize a detail to break up illegal activities.
“Visibility is the biggest part,” he said. “If people see marked squad cars, then they’re less likely to commit crimes.”
Off-duty police patrols are part of an ongoing effort to improve living conditions for Enos Park residents, and to attract new ones.
Combs said when he moved into the neighborhood seven years ago, 70 percent of the properties were rental units.
Many of the apartment owners, he said, don’t care about who lives in the building or what it looks like, as long as a rent check comes in the mail each month.
So what the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association has done is try to come up with a number of initiatives that enhance safety and attract homeowners to the community, he said.
Those efforts have resulted in 65 vacant properties being purchased by Enos Park Development LLC. Thirteen of those have been sold to new owners, including the recently opened Suzie Q’s Restaurant, 716 E. Enos St.
Combs said the association also has hired an attorney to prosecute nuisance-abatement cases, started the hotline where people can send in tips, and continued a Neighborhood Watch program.
With regards to appearance, Combs said there are plans for a sculpture park in Enos Park, among other things.
“From our point of view, we’re just getting going,” he said. “If it takes us buying every house in the neighborhood to take more control, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Jason Nevel can be reached at 788-1521.
ABOUT THE GROUP
The Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association was formed in 1989 by a group of concerned citizens living within the area bounded by North Third street (west), North Ninth Street (east), North Grand Avenue (north) and Carpenter Street (south) in Springfield.