JANESVILLE, WIs – The Fourth Ward neighborhood has been a focus of the Janesville police department for years. The neighborhood has had its difficulty with crime in past years. Police say their efforts in reducing crime in the area are working, but neighbors have mixed opinions.
Determining how safe residents feel living in the Fourth Ward depends on who is being asked. Alyssa Martins does not live in the neighborhood but chooses to come to the Fourth Ward park with her daughters on a regular basis.
“I’m never worried about coming here. I’ve lived here nine years in the Janesville area and have never felt scared,” Martins said.
Martins has heard negative things said about the area, but said she has never had a problem.
“You hear that as a general statement; this is the bad part of town and there is a lot of drugs and gang activity,” she said. “I would be nervous having my kids around that so I probably wouldn’t come here if that was the case,” Martins said.
Cheryl Jent has lived by the same park for 15 years and says she still doesn’t feel like the crime in the area is decreasing.
“There is a lot more shootings we hear about and a lot more drug trafficking and a lot of young kids that are into the drugs more,” Jent said.
Josh Finely has lived in the area for six years. While he has gotten his car broken into once, he says the neighborhood is not as bad as people make it seem.
“Things aren’t as bad as people make them out to be. The Fourth Ward has a bad rap. I can only speak from my experiences but I don’t have negative experiences living down here,” he said.
According to police data, crime is going down. Violent and property crimes in the city have declined by 8 percent from 2014 to 2015. In a Sunday news conference, police Chief David Moore addressed crime in the area.
Moore said the decrease is because of increased patrols in the area. The department also implemented an eight-point plan to reduce crime in the neighborhood in 2014. The plan includes developing small neighborhood groups to build relationships; adding a sergeant to oversee ongoing efforts in the neighborhood; replacing broken street and porch lights; trimming trees to increase visibility at night, working with landlords to prevent drug sales; adding neighborhood walks by police and residents and hosting neighborhood events. Finley said he has noticed a difference.
“Overall, I think the ward, it’s not that bad. Is it getting better? Is it getting worse? I don’t know. I think the police have a presence here and I don’t think people get away with it for very long,” Finley said.
While Jent still wants to see improvements, she hopes the extra police presence will help deter criminals from coming to the area.
“It’s probably chasing a lot of the criminals away more so then it was. Because there was a time when we lived across the street you didn’t see cops around the street nearly at all,” Jent said.
The department expects officers to patrol the Fourth Ward at the beginning and end of their shifts. Each shift, one officer is assigned to the neighborhood. Officers are also expected to spend time in the area whenever they have an opportunity, with extra officers assigned depending on staffing.