Sunday, January 18, 2004

City heeds residents' requests for lights

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PRICE HILL - Brenda Ihle, a 30-year resident of Price Hill, said the thieves and drug dealers skulking near her home on Considine Avenue have the perfect accomplice: the cover of darkness.

Ihle, who runs a child-care business out of her home, said the closest street lights are at least 15 houses away. She said the lack of light enables some criminals to hide in the shadows.

"I'm afraid to go on vacation because they will break in my house and take everything I've got," Ihle said. "They stand in the dark corners between the houses watching when people come and go from their homes."

That's why Ihle and some of her neighbors petitioned the city last month for more lighting on Considine Avenue. The group sang holiday carols to an official from the city's traffic and engineering department during a visit to the neighborhood. The song lyrics included a request for two additional street lights on the block.

Ihle said brighter streets might not necessarily equal safer streets, but improved lighting would reduce fear among some residents.

"If our streets had better lighting, I wouldn't need to worry about someone jumping out of the pitch black to grab me or my children," said Tenisha Johnson, a Price Hill resident.

Steve Bailey, the city's traffic engineer, said his department gets about 100 requests a year from residents for more street lights. Bailey said those requests are carefully evaluated.

Bailey said it is also necessary to ensure residents want the lights.

No one had to petition homeowners along Dayton Avenue in the West End. About 13 residents of the 800 block used their own money to buy a few extra street lights.

The group would later receive a $3,000 grant through the Clean & Safe Neighborhood Fund to buy 10 street lights.

Christopher McCarty, one of the applicants, said Dayton Avenue - known as "Millionaires Row" in the 1800s - had one of the highest crime rates in the West End. At night, it was also one of the darkest streets.

"Now that it's all lit up, I can see the whole street when I'm driving down," McCarty said. "I can't even imagine now what it was like before when it wasn't lit up."

McCarty said it remains to be seen how the lighting will affect crime on Dayton Avenue. A well-known crack house still operates on the block, despite having been raided by police.

Bond Hill residents are also looking at ways to increase lighting on California Avenue.

City officials confirmed that Considine Avenue would receive two new street lights within two weeks. That day can't come soon enough for Ihle.

"They're not running me out of the neighborhood," she said.


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