March 16, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Growth doesn’t equal crime
By Jody Reese

A recent spade of drug-related violent crimes in the city has the mayor and aldermen rightly very concerned. The mayor wants to add more police, but some aldermen are using these violent attacks to criticize the city’s new-found growth. I’ve heard Democrats are anti-growth, but this is ridiculous.

In response to one of these recent shootings on the West Side, Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne was quoted in this city’s curmudgeonly daily newspaper as saying, “We’ve grown too big, too quickly. This isn’t Las Vegas, it’s Manchester. ... It’s time to take a serious look at the direction the city is heading and where it wants to be in 10 years.” A day later Ward 10 Alderman George Smith was quoted as saying the large nightclubs that serve no food were the cause, even though that nightclub (Electra) hasn’t opened yet (all other nightclubs in Manchester must serve food).

These aldermen have it backwards. Turning dilapidated buildings into restaurants, office buildings and condos actually reduces crime -- just look at New York City. That city saw its crime rate evaporate as young and middle-aged professionals took back the night with restaurants, bars and clubs.

Manchester should be proud that people no longer sell crack cocaine on Elm Street. That the Guardian Angels are no longer needed to patrol the streets. This city’s nickname of Manch Vegas is not new. It comes out of a time when this city was either known for being a horribly boring place that was mockingly referred to as Manch Vegas or a place called Manch Vegas because it was overrun with illegal gambling, depending on who describes the etymology of the phrase.

The new Manchester with its civic center, ballpark, restaurants, nightclubs, theater, art, jobs and hot real estate is now lovingly called Manch Vegas. We’re proud of where we live.

During times when the nightly news leads off with some Manchester violent crime, our aldermen should be doing their best to show leadership by placing the unusual violent acts in context, noting that Manchester has an extremely low crime rate and that these cases were not random – they involved people who knew one another and were likely involved in taking or selling illegal drugs.

If the aldermen were really interested in preventing violent crime, they would be looking at ways to reduce the demand for drugs in this community. Drug abuse is a monumental social problem with no easy fixes. Other cities have tried offering drop-in centers for teens, police athletic activities, after-school programs for art and drama and safe places for teens to gather at night with music. For adults they offer more treatment centers and counseling for pregnant mothers. Clearly, more police actually policing would help (perhaps this is a good opportunity to have police stop wasting their time ticketing vehicles parked on the wrong side of the street in this city’s asinine odd-even parking scheme).

This is an issue where leadership is needed. Clearly, we have a lack of that..


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