RACINE - Many residents of Villa Street were happy to become the first neighborhood in the city to get a visit from the new Racine Police Department Nuisance Property Abatement Vehicle, except for the residents of 845 Villa St.
The armored truck outfitted with surveillance cameras was first parked in front of 845 Villa St. late last month. Community Policing Officer Brad Jungbluth said he had received numerous complaints from neighbors about the house, ranging from loud music, yelling and cursing, and even suspected drug dealing.
"It's an ongoing quality of life issue," Jungbluth said.
But since the armored truck was parked on Villa Street, things have changed. One man living in the home was arrested for harassing a neighbor, and the eviction process has been started in small claims court to remove the family living there.
"I've been getting a tremendous amount of thank yous," Jungbluth said. "(Neighbors) are grateful for it."
Charlie Johnson and his wife have lived at 835 Villa St. for over 20 years. He said there is normally a lot of activity near the house at 845 Villa. "Since the (truck) was there, I haven't seen it as much," he said.
Johnson said using the NPAV to put an end to such problems is a good idea.
"It's a presence," he said. "And you never know if someone's in there or not."
The idea behind the NPAV program is that the armored truck is a "virtual cop," Jungbluth said. Its video cameras can be monitored 24 hours a day via computer, and police hope that will be a deterrent to bad behavior.
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The police department has started taking recommendations for where the truck should be parked through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. When the need for the NPAV in front of a particular house is substantiated, officers will contact the residents and tell them the vehicle is outside for them.
When police notified Fred Maddox, the resident of 845 Villa St., that the NPAV was going to be parked in front of his home, he was embarrassed, he said.
"To me it's ridiculous," said Maddox. "It was not necessary."
He actually thinks the idea of the armored police truck is good, but only if it is deserved. Maddox says, in his case, it is not.
He claims that some of neighbors call police when a basketball rolls onto their lawn, or when he has legally parked his truck on the street in front of their houses. "I don't have loud music or drug dealing," Maddox said. "It's false if they're saying it about here."
Instead, some problems with his 23-year-old son, Fredrick Collins, is what Maddox believes caused his landlord of 18 years to evict their family. Collins was arrested Nov. 21 for disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer, after he allegedly threatened a neighbor.
"My son is a grown person," Maddox said. "I shouldn't have to be responsible for that."
He and his family are planning on moving soon. They are looking for another place to live.
Jungbluth said the NPAV will remain on Villa Street until the family has left the house.