Monday, February 15, 2010

Harper Woods considers cul-de-sacs to cut crime

Harper Woods is looking to cut crime by using barriers to block some streets or create new traffic flow patterns.
Police Chief Randolph Skotarczyk conducted a feasibility study, and a draft report has been reviewed by the City Council. City Manager Jim Leidlein said the report has been sent back for revisions.
"It's not something I think should be approached lightly. ... It has potential," Skotarczyk said.
Harper Woods has several major roads and sits along I-94. City officials said blocking off some streets might make escape more difficult for those who commit crimes in the city.
Skotarczyk said crime has not increased greatly in Harper Woods, but said he believes the numbers are too high for a city of just 2.63 square miles with about 14,000 residents. Though serious crimes dropped in 2008 -- the last year for which totals were available -- robberies, carjackings and larcenies rose.
"I'm in favor of reducing crime," Skotarczyk said. "I'm not in favor of making life difficult for our residents. If it ends up angering your populace, it's not worth it."
Skotarczyk and Leidlein won't say which streets are being considered for changes and declined to release the draft report, saying it might cause unnecessary concerns among residents.
However, they have dropped some clues.
Skotarczyk said two areas where a trial run could provide insight are a four-square-block area in the southwest section of the city and the southeast part of town. Both areas, he said, have been hit hard by crime.
Council members and city officials said they intend to hold informational meetings to gather input before deciding whether any plan should be implemented.
Fire Chief Sean Gunnery said barriers minimally would affect his crews, who would be instructed on what streets to use and have maps.
In 2008, some streets in Detroit's Palmer Woods neighborhood were blocked in a test study to determine traffic flow impact, particularly on cut-through traffic from 7 Mile and Woodward.
Palmer Woods Association President Craig Vanderburg said there was about a 30% decrease in traffic flow. The group is working with the city to develop permanent changes, he said.
In Grosse Pointe Park, a few streets have barriers separating the city from Detroit. The closure of Korte in the early 1990s drew controversy when residents in both cities questioned if the motive was to keep black Detroiters from crossing into mostly white Grosse Pointe Park.
Grosse Pointe Park officials said the move was to control traffic problems and was not racially motivated.
Contact CHRISTINA HALL: 586-826-7265 or