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North Rapid Residents Fight Community's Bad Rap

April 9, 2014, 10:04 PM by Kevin Woster

North Rapid Residents Fight Community's Bad Rap
RAPID CITY, SD -

Hard news happens in North Rapid City.  It doesn't get much harder than the 2011 shootout that left two city police officers dead, a third seriously injured and their 22-year-old assailant lying mortally wounded on the street.

Add an Amber Alert here, a robbery there and a gang bust over there and you can see how some might think North Rapid is a bad place to live.

But there's another side to the part of town that often gets lost in negative headlines. Residents say North Rapid gets a bad rap from people who don't really understand the community.

Nobody understands North Rapid better or loves it more than Alice McCoy. With her husband, Jim, a former state legislator and Rapid City School Board member, she's lived in North Rapid since 1986.

McCoy says that despite pockets of crime, most of North Rapid is a culturally-diverse mix of solid citizens.

"We've got elderly that are retired and just making it on their own. We've got middle-class, working-class people. We've got some kids across the street. You know, we're real people," McCoy said.

Admittedly, some real people can be dangerous. McCoy, who runs a day care out of her home, has faced off against criminal elements since the early 1990s when teenagers in a car pulled up in front of her house, yelled and pointed a handgun at her young daughter.

"He said, 'You get out of our town. This is our part of town and you get out of it,'" McCoy recalled.

The kids took off. But the incident inspired her to work with police and neighborhood-watch groups to make North Rapid safer.

"It was just basically training the neighbors, the neighborhood, what you can do to take back your neighborhood," McCoy said.

Fred Eisenbraun was a Rapid City police officer who worked with North Rapid residents to do just that. In 1993, he volunteered to be a community-policing officer and ended up being assigned to help residents tame and clean up a troubled North Rapid development called Lakota Homes.

That involved cleaning up junk cars and other messes, targeting criminals, and helping families feel more secure.

"People would come in here and they would create a nest, so to speak, of criminal activity," Eisenbraun said. "And when we started getting the police involved, you'd break up that nest and those criminals would have to go other places. And it disrupts them for a while. It works."

Now retired from the police force, Eisenbraun is property manager for Lakota Community Homes, the same neighborhood he helped clean up. He takes pride in the community of 800 people, about 80 percent of whom are Native American. He says the area is often misunderstood by outsiders.

"The vast, vast majority of my tenants out here are good, law-abiding, wonderful people, who come in here and they joke with me and they pay their bills and they take care of their kids," Eisenbraun said. "I always tell them, I want to watch your kids grow up here."

After 42 years in the neighborhood, Dolores "Dee" Schumacher is still watching kids grow up.  Some of them blood relatives, many others part of her community family. The 87-year-old Lakota woman is a matriarch at the Isaac Jogues Catholic Church and Mother Butler Center.  She remembers it was destroyed in the 1972 flood and rebuilt on North Rapid high ground near Interstate 90.

North Rapid residents helped each other then, as they do now, Schumacher says. That community spirit showed not long ago when a blizzard hit the neighborhood hard and groups of young people turned out with shovels to dig others out.

"They had such a great time. I mean, they laughed and had a good time. And they worked the whole day, just, and it was young people. And nobody asked them. They volunteered. And to me that means a lot," Schumacher said.

There's a lot to be said about North Rapid. And Schumacher says most of it is good.

"It's just comfortable. I mean, you know, we can be who we are. And I think that's important," Schumacher said.

It's just as important, perhaps, for outsiders to understand the goodness of a place too often seen as bad.

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