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Scene In Detroit: Weeding Out Trash, And Crime

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(Photo: Amelia Kanan) A group is cleaning up East Jefferson in Detroit.

(Photo: Amelia Kanan) A group is cleaning up East Jefferson in Detroit.

By Amelia Kanan, CBS Detroit Blogger

Outsiders love to talk a lot of trash about Detroit and yet there are people in the city who are simply cleaning it up.

There’s a small but mighty non-profit that deserves big attention for the logical solutions they’ve been applying to the streets of East Jefferson. The Jefferson East Business Association has morphed over three decades but they’ve held fast to their core: supporting the economic growth of the East Jefferson corridor.

In the JEBA office, a huge dry erase board hangs on the wall. On that board are two images of the corridor: one in bold colors categorizing the different districts and the other is a satellite map view of the avenue. Arrows, dates and notes like “art lot needs watering,” “huge weeds,” “signs on pole,” and “graffiti needs to be painted over” are scribbled next to the diagrams.

This tool can keep track of certain cleaning issues, which are then relayed to Hedgies Landscape Design. Twice per week, Hedgies, contracted by East Jefferson Corridor Collaborative (a partner of JEBA), tends to the needs of E. Jefferson between Conner and Alter, including things like weed abatement, trash removal, power washing, graffiti maintenance and mowing of lawns.

Hedgies also keeps up the area between Conner and McClellan, but since there isn’t much foot traffic the frequency is less. The EJCC also contracts Clean Downtown to maintain the area of the avenue between McClellan and I-375. Plus, they’ve also called on The Greening of Detroit to help with landscaping.

Cleaning up the streets isn’t just a trash and weed issue but crime one as well. The EJCC has implanted a few logical solutions to protecting their business and residential community. Security cameras, censor lighting and security panels have been a few things that the EJCC has installed around the neighborhood.

These seemingly simple fixes have served the area greatly such as an instance that ridded a house of drug selling squatters. However, as the organization has grown so have their goals. Since March, they have taken advantage of the Detroit Police Department’s Secondary Employment enactment, which allows private companies hire off-duty police officers.

The EJCC has been employing trained police officers to patrol crime hot spots along the corridor. Since it’s an expensive program, the EJCC can only fund 30 hours a week worth of coverage but even that has already brought a lawfulness back to the streets.

These routine environmental practices and safety measures are actually solving major urban issues that have been neglected for decades. The JEBA and EJCC are working daily as liaisons, city scouts and employers to make people feel safe when they need to go to their corner store for a loaf of bread or so they don’t have to hold their nose when visiting the dentist because of rotting trash outside.

“We’re supplementing city services,” Duncan Eady, EJCC’s Clean and Safe Manager explained. He and JEBA’s Clean and Safe Manager, Robert Burton-Harris have worked closely fill certain societal needs that are typically taken for granted in other major American cities. The thing is, JEBA and the EJCC’s presence and involvement depends on their budget. Although Josh Elling, the Executive Director, has substantially bulked up the budget with grants and sponsors, there is still a crucial need for local businesses to financially contribute as well.

The East Jefferson corridor is home to occupied apartment buildings, medical practices, veterinarian hospitals, convenient stores and restaurants and the EJCC has built a proactive influential support system for them. They’ve made goals and reached them, they’ve seen the problems and found solutions for them and they’re going to continue that strive for betterment but cannot do it alone.

So, enjoy the clean streets, pretty trees and safe businesses and let the trash talk cease.

Amelia Kanan is freelance writer/photographer and a returning native of Detroit. A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, she wrote for an Emmy nominated sketch comedy show and pursued her passion for documentary filmmaking in Los Angeles. An incomplete list of her loves: books, human rights, improv, the smell of new shoes, talking to strangers, libraries, France, yoga, furniture, music, sociology and pushing the limits.

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