Crime problems diminish after Nandina Street cleanup efforts

Sean C. Morgan

The crime problem on Nandina Street is diminishing.

As of Sept. 19, the Sweet Home Police Department had received 160 reports relating to the 1100 to 1300 block of Nandina. For the entirety of 2015, the department had 283 calls for service in the same section of the block.

If the pace of calls remained the same, a number that already includes the busier summer months, the department could expect approximately 205 calls by the end of 2016, an annual decrease in the number of calls of nearly 28 percent.

The difference is clear, said Police Chief Jeff Lynn.

The area has been impacted by two major events in the past year.

In December, Salem investor Justin Cherrington purchased 1240 and 1250 Nandina St. and evicted most residents when they failed to comply with apartment rules.

After that, Lynn said, he used the city’s chronic nuisance property ordinance against 1237 Nandina St. Under the ordinance, the city ultimately can prohibit the use of a property where crime is frequently committed or associated.

“We have seen a marked improvement in the Nandina Street area,” Lynn said. “We still go to calls in the area, but the calls are of a different nature.”

That’s a change he’s seen during 2016.

Lynn compiled a list of calls in the 1100 to 1400 block of Nandina. He noted that during 2016, the nature of the calls continued to change, with fewer disturbances and criminal trespass calls after June than in the first six months of the year.

From January to June, police answered 112 calls to those four blocks. Since June 1, a three-month period, the busier summer months, they responded to the area 51 times.

The number of warrant arrests is clearly falling too. In 2015, police made 32 warrant arrests in the 1100-1300 block. As of Sept. 19, they’ve made seven. If the pace of activity continues to the end of the year, they will have a total of nine warrant arrests for 2016.

“The call load’s fairly similar, but the nature of the calls are different,” Lynn said.

In the 1100 to 1300 block area, the depth of the changes are more stark, comparing 2015 to 2016. The department responded to 52 disturbances in 2015. As of Sept. 19, they responded to 23 disturbances, a projected 29.4 disturbances by the end of the year.

The number of suspicious activity calls was 48 in 2015. As of Sept. 19, police had responded to 29 suspicious calls, with a projected annual total of 37, in 2016.

Today, police rarely go to 1240 and 1250 Nandina St.

The problems there trickled over to 1237 Nandina St., Lynn said. “We were able to work with that property. We did have to enact the chronic nuisance ordinance, and they’ve made significant improvements with their property management.”

Add to all of that, he said, Nandina Street has a strong Neighborhood Watch.

The Neighborhood Watch is playing a key part in the improvements, with Block Captain Gay Byers actively managing three apartment complexes in the area now. That includes 1240 and 1250 Nandina St. since their purchase and remodel.

The purchase and remodel of 1240 and 1250 Nandina St. “has been the big key,” Byers said. “When he bought those and turned everybody out, that’s been the big key.”

Some people are still in the area, but their activities are mostly confined to the bar parking lot, she said.

Since then, many moved across the street to 1237 Nandina St., Byers said. While problems have declined considerably, the neighborhood still deals with noise and nuisances associated with 1237 Nandina and the Downtown Lounge’s back parking lot, where people gather.

Other problem areas have quieted down too, including the end of 13th Avenue, Byers said.

“The Neighborhood Watch members say they don’t call in as much,” said Gina Riley, community services officer, who coordinates the Neighborhood Watch programs. “There’s still little things here and there.”

The changes have come “since Mr. Cherrington has taken over the apartments and redone them,” Riley said. He screens applicants and kicks out troublemakers.

As crime statistics have decreased in different areas of town in the past, other areas increased, Lynn said.

That’s not something he’s seeing right now, he said. “A lot of the problem has dispersed.”