Neighbors who live near Wendell Park are hosting two events this week that they hope will curb some of the crime and blight that continues to be a problem in their area.
Those who live in the area have voiced concerns about human trafficking, safety, and the ongoing battle of trash that blows through this part of Richmond, the North and East neighborhood, which sits just east of busy 23rd Street.
Saturday, the neighborhood will host a trash pick-up day and potluck picnic to bring neighbors together and help make the area look cared for.
"It's really the broken window theory," resident Linda McKee said, referring to the belief that suggests a well-cared-for neighborhood is less likely to attract crime.
Recently, McKee and others living in the area got together to conduct an impromptu survey, walking house to house and asking neighbors to list their top three concerns for the neighborhood.
"A lot of people said things like lighting, traffic calming, and unifying, but the top three issues were human trafficking, safety, and trash," McKee said.
Human Trafficking is a long-time problem that has been the topic of forums, neighborhood meetings, and discussions with Richmond Police Department and Contra Costa County officials.
A few years back, business owners along the 23rd Street corridor banded together to move the trafficking away from their establishments because they were losing customers. Many reported violent encounters with traffickers, and some were eventually forced to reduce their business hours.
With community support, human trafficking was pushed off of 23rd Street, unintentionally moving much of it east into residential areas.
This solution hasn't been palatable for residents who live on those streets who say they witness trafficking from their living room windows on a regular basis.
North and East Neighborhood Council President Jan Mignone grew up in the area and knows it well.
"We have a ways to go, that's for sure, and we need to get more people involved," Mignone said. "The only way you can change things is to get out and do it, and now we don't have the police like we used to"
According to the City of Richmond 2023-24 budget, Richmond Police Department has funds for 145 officers, but the current number of sworn police officers is just 118.
Last week, Councilmember Doria Robinson sent out a newsletter alerting residents to the "perilous working conditions faced by Richmond's public safety workers" caused by historic staffing shortages, which Robinson called "a crisis of vacancies."
"At a recent neighborhood council meeting, a police officer, clearly overwhelmed and fatigued, shared the distressing reality of being on his 18th hour of duty. It is deeply concerning that individuals we entrust with the highest expectations are pushed to their limits due to mandatory overtime," Robinson wrote.
For the neighbors in the Wendell Park area, the crisis of vacancies and lack of available officers translates into the need for neighbors to take action themselves and hope that alternative methods of crime prevention are successful.
McKee said that she hoped the installation of Flock license plate readers in the area would help address both illegal dumping and human trafficking. "The Johns circle the blocks looking for the women. The license plate readers pick up on that," McKee said.
McKee and Mignone agree that, at this time, the neighborhood needs to get as many people involved as possible.
"I hope people come on Saturday," Mignone said of the trash pick-up day and potluck picnic. "We also need to get the city more involved; we've had some help from the county with the problems on 23rd, but we still have a ways to go here," Mignone said.