Thursday, September 25, 2008

“Taking it Back: an East Nashville story”

This is an article written recently for the Edgefield newsletter. If we really want change, we will have to be that very change.......

“Taking it Back: an East Nashville story”
By Jill Kares

I just want to go out for a walk to the dog park, sans dog, like I used to. I want to walk to five points, visit my favorite places and then walk home. These are basic rights, as a resident of East Nashville, and yet like many of us, I feel my rights are being taken. By whom?

East Nashville has a reputation that I have scoffed at for my full 3.5 years of living here. I am a post-tornado east coast transplant who saw no other neighborhood as an option. There is no place like this one in Nashville; the artists, the racial diversity, the sexual-orientation diversity, the community spirit, the vivacity, the piercings, tattoos and hair colors I am too old to rebelliously sport. This is all what makes my community alive and unique. I don’t want to lose one single bit of it, but I see some rights slipping from us, and I refuse to let them go.

Lately, it seems, East Nashville is living up to its reputation. Not just East Nashville, but all of Nashville is experiencing an increase in crime that statistics don’t seem to support or reflect. As a resident, however, I know one thing – how I feel. I will be honest; I am fearful. I no longer feel fully safe walking down my own street.

A year ago, my husband and I were recipients of six juveniles attacking our front door while we were home on a busy Friday evening at 9pm. After nearly a year of jumpiness, sleeplessness, anger, forgiveness and empowerment, I feel ready to help change this trend. It is one thing to have your own house violated, but it is entirely another to see it continue with others. Knowing that others have been affected by similar incidents fills me with an inner rage I cannot describe, because I have been there. Truly, I had hoped ours was a fluke incident; one reserved for whatever they wanted from us on that particular night. But sadly, it wasn’t a one-time neighborhood event. I see that clearly now.

I have attended crime meetings at 11am on Thursdays at Beyond the Edge when my schedule allows. I have commiserated and been comforted, but finally, I have had enough. It is time to get the word out about how WE can turn this ship around; together. In my own little corner, here is how I began:1.

I was already connected with my community online at the following addresses: (there are more – a Lockeland Springs one, an East Nashville politics one, and Edgefield one… a little search on google groups or topica)

2. I found out who my neighbors were. I knew some, but I put a flyer out with my personal contact info on it, and I went door to door in a 2 block radius of my house. I made a simple excel spreadsheet with those who wanted to have their info shared with others. Some opted not to, for whatever reason, but I know how to contact my neighbors both through email and via phone if ever I see something suspicious.

3. I started attending the crime meetings at Beyond the Edge (time and place listed above). Commander Nash and Sgt. Ogren attend these meetings and are very informative, patient and kind. For those of you who would like to start up an evening one, all it needs is a leader, a place and a time. Eastland Café on Monday nights (happy hour) was suggested at one point.

4. At said meetings, it dawned on me that the only way to stop the repeat offenders in this neighborhood is to get at the root of it. We need laws changed. Our juvenile laws are from the 50s when taking a knife to the pool hall was one of the most risqué things you might see. Remember those juveniles that tried to get into my house? They got a slap on the wrist, were told that they were on probation, and sent home. The parents were not punished and the juveniles most likely thought that the procedure of getting “busted” was a joke. So my question is: How do we change this? How do we make things better? The answer was always: write to your local and state representatives.

I don’t know about you, but this was a vague suggestion at best. Write what? And to whom specifically? So like most, I left, didn’t write to anyone, and then got upset again when another incident happened. So now, I am sharing with you what I turned up in my research. First, what do you write? The answer: write about what you are feeling and experiencing in your neighborhood. Write that you think the laws are too loose and need to be more harsh and time-appropriate for juveniles and repeat offenders. Write whatever you think our representatives need to hear to be convinced to change these laws and make our streets safer.

Dan, a local resident gives this advice on the crime listserv, “Write that we support mandatory minimum sentencing laws for violent crimes, truth-in-sentencing laws that require convicts to serve their full sentence, an end to juvenile sentencing for those over XX years of age, and parental liability laws that apply to certain specific crimes committed by minors. The people who enable these criminals by opposing the aforementioned are out there being seen and heard. Don't let them shame you into silence. The desire to see violent criminals dealt with in a harsh manner does not make you a bad person.”

So who are these people we should send our letters to?

Here is a full list:

State Legislative --

1. Representative Rob Briley – State House District
5232 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37243-0152

2. Representative Mary Pruitt – State House District
5825 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37243-0158

3. Senator Thelma M. Harper – State Senate District
198 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37243-0219

4. Senator Joe M. Haynes – State Senate District
205 Legislative Plaza, Nashville, TN 37243-0220

Local District (District 6) Representative:
Mike Jameson
Metropolitan Council Office
One Public Square, Suite 204
P.O. Box 196300
Nashville, TN 37219-6300

We can’t sit by, do nothing, and expect our scenery to change. The only way to make a concrete change is one from within. Personally, I want to ask you all to write the aforementioned representatives. We have power in numbers, we are empowered by our well-connected community, and we can make a difference. Let’s take back our streets, our sidewalks, our porches and our piece of mind.

I am writing my letters today. Heck, now I can email them all at the same time!