Look West neighborhood resident sees transformation in neighborhood

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Andrea Anderson
Thursday, April 17, 2014

JANESVILLE—Margaret Delaney didn't always feel comfortable walking, driving, or riding her bike along Look West neighborhood streets.

She used to avoid some all together.

If she had to drive down one, she would make sure her windows were rolled up and the doors were locked.

Now, after nine years of working with neighbors and the Janesville Police Department, she feels safer, and she is noticing her neighbors do, too.

“When you've seen the works and you've seen the improvements it's just like wow,” Delaney said. “Our neighborhoods have been considered safe enough now that we have people buying houses here.”

She and her husband, Ron, no longer have the fear they once did because the drug houses and pit bulls are gone and the landlords have gotten better. The neighbors have also banded together, she said.

Delaney, her husband, and neighbor Marne Friedner were at the third annual Look West neighborhood walk Wednesday night where they shared some of these observations.

The three were among about 20 people who walked from Bond Park on North Oakhill Avenue and along Laurel Avenue, North Palm Street, Ravine Street and back to the park.

On the walk, Delaney told her fellow residents that the neighborhood, known for its history of drugs or prostitution, has shifted from being a place where serious crime was frequent to a place that has more aesthetic issues such as vandalism and code violations.

That's not to say crimes other than vandalism or defiant tenants and landlords don't exist, but it certainly has improved, Delaney said.

The area around Bond Park was chosen because of a spike in vandalism from the summer through the fall, Delaney and Friedner said.

Police Chief Dave Moore and four officers were at the walk.

Officer Jeff Winiarski keeps tabs on the area.

He said juveniles and young adults have kicked in bathroom doors and lit a fire under the pavilion and near the bathroom. He also said there have been several disorderly conduct incidents and at least one substantial battery.

The annual walk, organized by Delaney and Janesville police, is an opportunity for residents to share their concerns and let residents know people are always looking and listening.  

The change in crime isn't the only thing that has changed in the past year.

Delaney, who led the walk last year in May, finished cancer treatment in November.

Last year she wore a stocking cap and several layers under her winter coat, while neighbors on the walk sported lighter clothing.

In March 2013 she had finished a “bad” chemotherapy treatment and she said she didn't have the body heat—even in May.

Nonetheless, Delaney bundled up and braved the weather last May, and she wouldn't have had it any other way.

On Wednesday she had some knee pain, but, once again, nothing was going to stop her.

“My knee is hurting tonight, and I'm going: 'I thought I'd be good for this,'” Delaney said with a chuckle before continuing. “Well, I am good. I am good. I have hair, and I am good, and I can walk.”

Moore said people like Delaney are the reason why neighborhoods like the Fourth Ward and Look West are changing.

“The police department can only take things so far,” Moore said. “We only have so many resources and only so much we can do on our patrols. But when we partner with neighborhoods and work closely with them … it really does make a difference.”

Delaney is persistent and won't let anything stop her, because she wants to make Janesville a better place for everyone—not just her neighborhood. 

“It's important to be vigilant and I know that I can do this, but I also know anyone else can do this, too,” Delaney said. “Anyone else can step up. You just want everybody else to feel safe. The whole city needs to feel safe.”

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