West end of Belleville residents talk about ongoing issues, pleas to Mayor Eckert
When concerns about absentee landlords began to mount two years ago on the far west side of Belleville, a group of residents formed the Top of the Hill Neighborhood Association to address distressed homes and apartments.
“That was the start of it,” said Georgia-Ann Edwards of the code violations that prompted the group to start the neighborhood association.
Edwards, who is president of the neighborhood association, said city officials have taken note after hearing from the “squeaky wheel.”
“Now things have changed,” she said. “Now we’re getting action.”
And Edwards praised the city’s police officers for their work in tackling a recent series of daytime burglaries.
In the Top of the Hill area, police investigated 18 residential burglaries in the past six months. Three juveniles have been arrested in connection with those burglaries. Juvenile court petitions have been filed against one teen and the other two teens are still under investigation.
We are working around the clock on these burglaries. It is a No. 1 priority for us. We’re going to do everything under the law to hold the subjects accountable.
Lt. Matt Eiskant, Belleville Police Department
Lt. Matt Eiskant spoke during the Top of the Hill association’s meeting this past week about the Belleville Police Department’s efforts in the neighborhood that stretches along West Main Street from South 95th Street to Illinois 157.
“We are working around the clock on these burglaries,” Eiskant said in an interview. “It is a No. 1 priority for us. We’re going to do everything under the law to hold the subjects accountable.”
He said one or two suspects will knock on a door. If no one answers, they go to a back door and break in.
Eiskant also said detectives have arrested three juveniles accused of committing burglaries on the west side of Belleville but not in the Top of the Hill neighborhood. Juvenile court cases are pending against these three.
The arrested suspects are 14 to 17 years old and the burglaries have occurred Monday through Friday during the day.
However in the most recent burglary, which occurred on Glenview Drive on Monday, the suspect is older than the previous suspect and is believed to be in his 20s, Eiskant said.
“If you’re not at work during the daytime, we need your help to catch these individuals,” Eiskant told the residents gathered in the Blessed Sacrament School gym for the association meeting. “If you see suspicious people that you know don’t have any reason to be in the neighborhood, call us.
“We can find out who they are, identify them and take further action.”
“The courts have got to do better,” Edwards said of the prosecution of juvenile cases.
“Things are really getting better here, but the problem with juvenile offenders” is that they are released soon after their arrest, Edwards said.
“And do they stop? No, they don’t stop. They continue their behavior,” Edwards said. “They probably have an adult that’s steering them.”
Edwards suggest law-enforcement file negligence charges against parents of juvenile offenders. “There has to be accountability,” she said.
Edwards wonders what will happen during the summer with the juveniles: “Is it going to pick up? Are they going to move on?”
Eiskant told the residents that officers do give citations to parents when they can.
He also said some of the juvenile suspects are from the east side of Belleville and have gone to the west side to commit crimes.
Trish Kinnison, who moved to Olympia Street two years ago, said her street was quiet at first but in the past year police officers have been called about 10 times.
Kinnison said two daytime burglaries have been committed on her street in the past two months.
“I was shocked because I’m normally home during the day,” she said to hear of burglaries occurring during the day. She said she spoke to Eiskant after a recent burglary and was glad that he went to the neighborhood association meeting.
Along with Olympia Street, other streets in the Top of the Hill neighborhood include Baltimore Street, Farthing Lane, Granvue Drive, Wondell Woods Drive, North 95th Street, North 96th Street and North 98th Street.
I really would like to just work together to make sure that we get a handle on it before it blows up in our face because we’ve been here a long time.
Debra Mize, resident of North 98th Street
Kinnison said she was glad the city officials met with the residents. Along with Eiskant, Mayor Mark Eckert, Ward 4 Alderman Johnnie Anthony and Ward 8 Alderman Roger Wigginton were some of the city officials who spoke during the Top of the Hill neighborhood meeting.
Debra Mize, the former director of prevention for the Violence Prevention Center of Southwestern Illinois in Belleville, has lived on North 98th Street since 2001.
“It has such potential, it really does,” she said of her street. One vacant home was built with material from structures in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
She went to the Top of the Hill meeting to bring her complaints to the city officials.
“We have some real issues down here that need to be addressed,” Mize said. She cited the recent burglaries, motorists speeding and street and sidewalk condition as some of her concerns.
“I really would like to just work together to make sure that we get a handle on it before it blows up in our face because we’ve been here a long time,” Mize said.
- What: The Top of the Hill Neighborhood Association will host its second annual walk in May to highlight the neighborhood.
- When: 10 a.m. Saturday, May 21
- Where: The walk starts at Dr. James L. Gehr’s dental office at the corner of West Main and South 95th streets. Maps of the route will be distributed.
- Treats and water will be provided. Volunteers also will be given trash bags and gloves if they are able to help pick up litter.
- For more information, contact Georgia-Ann Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.