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Safety, security plan proposed for Omaha’s North 24th Street area

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 1:01 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Business owners along North 24th Street are teaming up to stop the violence in that area.

An outbreak of violence over the Fourth of July weekend prompted the North 24th Street Business Improvement District on Thursday to lay out its comprehensive safety and security strategy that includes working with police.

“We are counting on the Omaha Police Department to enforce the policy and for visitors to observe these policies,” said Lavonya Goodwin, president of the improvement district. “The BID is also seeking a ‘good neighbor ordinance’ that will demand that nuisance bars and nuisance social clubs clean up their act or be permanently closed.”

The BID made the announcement during a news conference Thursday afternoon, telling 6 News that people who live around here want to live in a peaceful neighborhood, and they’re asking for help.

“We’ve had incidents, specific social clubs, bars on North 24th Street that have had more than 600 911 calls since January of 2019,” Goodwin said. “That’s residents in a three-block radius, calling the police because of misconduct.”

Sometimes, that misconduct can get out of hand, and business owners said all the flashing red lights are not good for business or business growth.

“This is a community that has thrived on business development,” said Dan Goodwin Jr., owner of Goodwin’s Spencer Street Barber Shop. “If it’s going to return to a heyday, with thriving businesses that are able to provide jobs, opportunities and attract other businesses, then we’ve got to get our hands around the violence.”

Members of the BID got together with business owners and police to work on their plan, which includes preventing homicides, shots fired in the area, burglaries, fights, vandalism, noise violations, cruising, and loitering. They hope that will prevent further tragedies from happening on North 24th Street.

To make that happen, everyone must work together, including the police. Omaha Police said one of the biggest problems in the area is people who trespass after hours on closed lots.

OPD Capt. Keith Williamson said at Thursday’s news conference that OPD is planning to add 12-16 officers to the northeast precinct in order to better enforce closed property ordinances.

“Do not go to any closed property and hang out,” he said. “If you do so, you will be subject to arrest.”

Those positions will be staffed by OT or additional on-duty personnel on the weekends in order to assist with crowds.

OPD has also requested additional support from the Nebraska State Patrol, he said, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office may also be providing additional support. Williamson said typically, each agency provides two officers when they are able to offer assistance.

Williamson said officers would be also upping enforcement on open-container and a variety of traffic violations.

“We’ll have additional office presence down here,” Williamson said. “Our goal is to have anybody in the area safely disperse that’s there, but also if people are willfully ignoring those ‘closed property’ signs, they will be contacted. My officers will issue them a citation or (we’ll) physically arrest them.”

Some worry the extra law enforcement in the area could create the possibility of people getting harassed or that over-enforcement will occur in a predominantly Black area of Omaha. OPD says they don’t want to over-police, that they want people to follow the law an not trespass on posted property after-hours.

“Somebody chose to go in there, then they’re choosing to disobey the law, then they’re choosing to ignore the request of those properties, then they’re subject to contact with the police department,” Williamson said. “No different if you choose to ignore a red light and run it. No different if you choose to ignore the DUI laws that are on the books and drive intoxicated.”

Some business owners say it’s the people who live in the community who are tired of the violence and they’re just asking for peace.

“Most of the calls are coming from the residents,” said Dan Goodwin Jr., owner of Goodwin Spencer Street Barber Shop. “I’m talking about police calls are coming from the residents and the business owners that live in this community... and many of those would be afraid to acknowledge that is what they’re doing — being afraid to be called out as a snitch for simply wanting to be safe and to have a successful business or simply a peaceful nights sleep.”

Michael Maroney, president of the Omaha Economic Development Corp., acknowledged that cooperation will be necessary in order for the initiative to be a success.

“This is not going to be resolved by just one party,” he said. “The police are not going to resolve it by themselves. We’re not going to resolve it by ourselves. It’s going to take all of us working together.”

Watch Thursday’s news conference

Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.

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