"By educating these people who live in this community to be able to take care of problems themselves has been huge,"
--Officer Shane LaPorte, Jackson Police Dept.
Jackson, Mich. (WILX) The northeast side of Jackson near Loomis Park has gotten a bad rap over the years, but neighbors are trying to change it.
You wouldn't know it at first glance--with kids playing and families taking it easy Wednesday evening at Loomis Park--that is hasn't always been this way.
"It's come a long ways, it's gotten a lot better," said Larry Lienhart who has lived in the area for 54 years.
"People are starting to get involved in the neighborhood."
From blight, to crime, to a sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in the park back in 2007 that shook the neighborhood, the area has seen its fair share.
Which is why Carrie Meadows started the "B2 Watchers Neighborhood Watch" group about six years ago.
"I mean I have a family here in the city and I just wanted to make it as safe as I could for my family and others around us," Meadows said.
They met Wednesday evening at the Boos Recreational Center at Loomis Park for the first time this year and with regular meetings for the past six years, they're starting to see results.
"I've been told by a lot of the officers and sergeants this is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city and I take pride in that," Meadows said.
Officer Shane LaPorte with the Jackson Police Dept. said calls to the park so far this year have been way down.
"By educating these people who live in this community to be able to take care of problems themselves has been huge," LaPorte said. "In fact it uses even less resources in the city by empowering them."
At Loomis, there have been significant security improvements made in the past few years to make it safer for kids and families.
"We've taken down a lot of the structure around it with the fencing, we've put up lighting, the police come through here and patrol it a lot more," Meadows said.
Beyond the park, the other major effort underway is the clearing out of run-down blighted homes and turning them into empty properties to be rehabbed.
"Now that we're getting rid of that blight you can see this neighborhood coming back alive, people are taking pride in their properties," LaPorte said. "Once you get rid of the blight, the crime goes with it."
And with that, renewed hope that neighbors won't go too.