The section of Charles Street between McKinley and Newland avenues is a perfect microcosm of Jamestown.
Of the roughly 25 homes on the block, 10 are single family homes - seven of which are owner-occupied. There are about 15 two-family homes, a three-family home, a former school that has been turned into an apartment complex, a small industrial building and a private business on the street. Home values range from about $22,000 to $42,500.
On a summer day, it's not uncommon to hear children playing in their yards. Meals on Wheels trucks are seen regularly delivering to elderly residents of Charles Street who have lived on the street for decades. Regular people get up, go to work and come home to Charles Street every day.
And, since early February, there have been two drug arrests on this otherwise quiet, livable street.
On Feb. 1, a Jamestown man was charged with selling crack cocaine from a 31 Charles St. apartment. Then, on Sunday, a man was assaulted and robbed across the street in the parking lot of an apartment building on Charles Street. Four people have been charged in what police are saying is a botched drug deal. If convicted, there will likely be fairly short prison sentences.
There are dozens of stories each month on our pages of people being charged with selling or buying drugs. Anecdotally, people talk about areas of the city where one shouldn't want to buy a home or rent an apartment.
It's a different story for Charles Street residents and the ordinary, law-abiding citizens of similar neighborhoods throughout Jamestown. Do you want your children outside with the possibility of drug-fueled violence taking place across the street? Would you feel comfortable leaving your spouse and children in an apartment not knowing how safe the neighborhood really is? The scary part is Charles Street isn't nearly the biggest problem street in Jamestown. There are streets with much, much bigger drug-related issues. How do we fix it?
Talking about the problem would be a good start.
Nowhere in Jamestown's Neighborhood Revitalization Plan is the impact of drugs and drug dealers on a neighborhood addressed. It's rare the topic is discussed at a City Council Public Safety or Housing committee meeting - in fact, drugs didn't show up at all in meeting minutes from 2012 or so far in 2013. Don't look for it to come up during a campaign for public office, either. No one publicly discusses what drugs are most prevalent in the area, where they're coming from or areas that are major trouble spots. Is the answer more neighborhood watches? Should the city have more police officers? How would it pay for them? Should there be more targeted policing? How does the community judge the effectiveness of that policing? Is it a courts issue?
These are all questions that should be asked.
There is much good going on in Jamestown. The city is home to many good neighborhoods. Housing prices are affordable. There are vibrant museums and attractors. It's easy to talk about those things. Area residents owe it to themselves to discuss, openly and honestly, the city's problems, too.
Sweeping them under the rug does no one any good.