Tour of Look West neighborhood highlights progress

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staff, Gazette
Saturday, May 11, 2013

— Seven or eight years ago, Margaret Delaney might have pointed out houses known for drugs or prostitution on a tour of her Look West neighborhood.

As she walked through the area around Washington Park with a group of residents and police early Friday evening, though, chipped paint or uncut grass got more of her attention.

It’s a testament to the way Look West has improved over the past few years, neighbors and police said, as concerns have shifted from serious crime to more aesthetic issues or unruly tenants.

While there are still issues to address, Delaney said, she is thrilled to see the amount of progress her neighborhood has made.

“They’re all saying, ‘It’s so good—all it is, is the house that hasn’t been painted or the house that needs to be fixed up,’” she said. “That’s all it is.”

Police were aggressive in handling houses known for drugs and are seeing fewer now, Janesville Police Chief David Moore said. The problems Look West faces today are “very manageable,” he said.

“That is what the officers see and that is what the neighbors see: They really feel like the neighborhood is heading in the right direction, and we think we can make it better,” Moore said.

Delaney’s tour began in Washington Park with a dozen residents and half a dozen cops, then moved along Washington, Terrace and Pearl streets.

The effort was organized both by Delaney and Janesville police as an opportunity for residents to share their concerns, Moore said.

As they walked, neighbors pointed out the houses they’ve had problems with, whether it is uncut grass in the summer or unshoveled sidewalks in the winter.

They also lamented the houses owned by deadbeat landlords, or the ones that had stayed vacant and on the market for years at a time.

Often, though, the conversations were about how blocks had improved or how houses finally got fixed up after sitting in disrepair.

Police have put a big emphasis on Look West and the Fourth Ward with the belief that safety in those sometimes troubled neighborhoods impacts Janesville’s broader reputation, Moore said.

“I believe Janesville’s safety will be judged on how we do in Look West and Fourth Ward,” Moore said. “If we keep Look West and Fourth Ward, I think the entire community’s going to be judged safe. If we lose Look West and Fourth Ward … I think all of Janesville will be judged unsafe.”

The walk ended in front of a community garden neighbors started four years ago in Washington Park.

As the group huddled up, resident Linda Kitzman talked about how far the park itself had come.

“This park used to be a drug hangout,” Kitzman said. “Now when you come here in the summer, it’s just families.”

Last updated: 10:37 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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