For more than five years the City of Sioux Falls has worked to improve the Pettigrew Heights neighborhood in central Sioux Falls. Now a new program is aiming to personally help homeowners and residents make Pettigrew Heights a safer place to live.
"A lot of the issues in those neighborhoods, in the nighttime hours they kind of stem from lighting," Sioux Falls Police Officer Jon Dravland said. “This block walk program is something new we started this year," Dravland said.
All summer residents in Pettigrew Heights have been able to walk a block with a cop at night. Residents can share their concerns.
Police can give their advice to make the neighborhood safer like trimming bushes and putting in more lighting. It’s all an effort to detract vandals, burglars and bad guys.
"Families don't stay as long. They come and go a lot more now so we have a lot of people who come and go and you really don't get to know who they are because every couple months they're gone," Pettigrew Heights resident Sonya Anderson said.
Anderson raised her kids in Pettigrew Heights. She's lived in central Sioux Falls for 24 years and has seen the neighborhood change.
"When we first moved in we didn't let the kids go out of the house or out of the yard because you would hear gunshots from blocks away. There were always loud parties, always noise," Anderson said.
But Anderson says an increased emphasis on the area and new programs like the block walk have helped ease those problems.
"The police department does a lot better job. Now when you call and say you have a loud noise they're here within ten minutes to take care of the noise, which really helps," Anderson said.
Dravland has worked in central Sioux Falls for three years and sees the benefits of simply walking in the neighborhood with residents.
"We just want to get down to the 100 block level and make contact with the residents and maybe give them a few tips on what they can do to take some pride in the neighborhood they live in to make it a little safer," Dravland said.
Sioux Falls Police say they are trying to take a more active role in hitting the streets on bikes and on foot in the neighborhood. So far this year 30 percent of the reports of disorderly and intoxicated subjects have come from police versus ten percent last year.
"As opposed to getting out and making a lot of arrests we got out to the neighborhoods and made ourselves more visible," Dravland said.
Anderson says she's noticed a difference.
"You're not forgotten and maybe that's why people are coming and going because they realize they can't get away with the stuff they want to."
And that's what these walks around the block are all about.
There are five more block walks from 9:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in Pettigrew Heights before the end of September.
- September 14 Lowell Elementary School (East Side)
- September 17 18th St. and Menlo Avenue
- September 19 17th St. and Menlo Avenue
- September 23 15th St. and Covell Avenue
- September 28 13th St. and Lake Avenue