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North 24th Street business group announces safety and security plan

North 24th Street business group announces safety and security plan

The stories are distinct, but their origin is the same: a neighborhood so vibrant, so unified that individual accomplishments and devastations touched every house from Tech High to Kountze Park. A neighborhood where, depending on the night, they might see Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Ray Charles, James Brown, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson – just walking down 24th Street. A neighborhood despite its humble size and remote location in middle America, became a progressive beacon in the national protest movement, recognized by would-be presidents and would-be revolutionaries.

The North 24th Street Business Improvement District announced a strategy Thursday that includes a public relations campaign and increased law enforcement and security measures to prevent large late-night crowds.

The safety and security plan has been in the works for a year, said LaVonya Goodwin, president of the district’s board. But a recent spate of shootings makes it more urgent.

“One of the primary initiatives of the North 24th Street Business Improvement District is to encourage a safe and secure environment for people to live, work, play and worship,” Goodwin said. “We cannot and will not accept gun violence or any other activity that is harmful to our community along North 24th Street.’ “

The plan includes increased enforcement of closed property ordinances and other laws. Omaha Police Department Capt. Keith Williamson said 12 additional Omaha officers will be assigned to the area on weekends. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Nebraska State Patrol also will contribute officers. He said people will be cited or arrested for violations.

Williamson joined Goodwin, Omaha 360 Director Ricky Smith from the Empowerment Network, Omaha Economic Development Corp. President Michael Maroney and other North Omaha leaders in announcing the strategy.

So far, 23 property owners along North 24th have posted signs declaring their properties closed after certain hours to discourage loitering and illegal activity.

The Business Improvement District also wants to hire private security, and to help businesses install security cameras and lighting. It plans a marketing strategy through paid advertising, social media, yard signs and other means appealing to the public to “Keep it safe. Keep it legal. Keep it respectful. Keep it clean.”

The district will work with North Omaha churches and other organizations. Goodwin estimated the efforts will cost more than $250,000 a year. The district is seeking private and City of Omaha funding.

Asked about concerns the measures could lead to overpolicing, the leaders said they want appropriate, equitable policing. They said the people causing the problems don’t live or work in the neighborhood, and that North 24th Street residents and business owners deserve peace and safety.

“This is a community that has thrived on business development,” said Dan Goodwin, co-owner of Goodwin’s Spencer Street Barbershop, a business his father started in 1955. “If it’s going to return to its heyday with thriving businesses that are able to provide jobs, opportunities, attract other businesses, then we’ve got to get our hands around the violence.”


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Chris Burbach covers the Douglas County Board, Planning Board and other local government bodies, as well as local neighborhood issues. Follow him on Twitter @chrisburbach. Phone: 402-444-1057.

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