Sex Assault, Other Crimes Lead to Mid-Michigan Watch Group

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

"We've been having some trouble here," John McGill said.

The way some of McGill's neighbors in Jackson's Loomis Park neighborhood see it, trouble is an understatement.

They describe bands of teenagers committing crimes and destroying the quality of life in the area.

"They're walking down the street, hollering, saying 'Come outside, we'll take you on. We'll take anybody on,' " Debra Henry said.

Many neighbors have similar complaints, raised at a neighborhood meeting to discuss crime in the wake of news that a 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted after being approached in the park.

The incident happened about three weeks ago. Residents first learned about it roughly a week and a half ago.

"I believe we should have known about it right then and there," Henry said.

Jackson Police Sgt. Jennifer Carter says the department needed time to confirm the facts before releasing it to the public. And she sees the crime as an isolated incident.

"This is a low crime area," Carter said. "This is the first stranger sexual assault in the area."

Isolated as police believe it to be, that incident combined with reports of a gang fight has City Councilmember Bill Mure calling for change.

"We want to start to address it before it becomes a larger issue," Mure said.

He wants to create a neighborhood watch. The problem with that, plenty of neighbors say, is that they are watching and they can't get police to respond when they want to report a problem.

"I don't want to lock myself in the house and wait for the law -- the kids will already be gone," Henry said.

But faced with few other solutions, Mure and some neighbors decided Monday night to go ahead with a watch group.

"We've got to do something as a community to start watching out," Henry said.

Something most everyone living near Loomis Park can agree on.

Police are still investigating the case. Anyone with information should call the Jackson Tipline at 517-787-0212.

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