Read Part 1 of Kewanee’s Crime Series here.
Read Part 2 of Kewanee’s Crime Series here.
Fairview Apartments has been blamed for the Kewanee crime since the social housing complex began taking in low-income applicants in 1940.
“We were shunned,” Housing Director Angela Hathaway said. “We have always been the enemy and we find it difficult to move beyond that image.”
Fairview was established in the 1930s to combat the “slums” of Kewanee
While it is true that the police district in which Fairview is located leads Kewanee in the number of police calls each year, it is more about population density than propensity for crime, officials say. local.
More than a third of calls to Kewanee’s beats come from Beat 2, which runs east of Tenney / Main and north of Central Boulevard, Kewanee Police Chief Welgat said.
And while it’s easy to point the finger at social housing to be the root of the problem, Welgat said the high number of calls is based on density, not higher per capita crime. He said this part of the city also has smaller plots, which means more people live in a smaller location – a condition that can lead to more neighborhood conflicts and property crimes such as the flight.
There are also no grocery stores and until recently the county health units were out of town, and because of this Welgat said there were sometimes more pedestrians in it. neighborhood than in other parts of the city, increasing mobility and interaction with the neighborhood.
“There are a lot more people outside and it’s condensed,” he said.
The police chief blames the more prevalent methamphetamine addiction as the problem underlying Kewanee’s high crime rate, and offenders are scattered throughout the town and region.
Housing Authority of Henry County CEO Angela Hathaway said that while she realizes there are more calls in this part of town, she agrees with Welgat’s assessment according to where the density of the neighborhood is the most important factor, not that residents are more likely than anyone else to commit a crime.
A rough calculation of the area of Fairview relative to the rest of Kewanee using census data shows that it is about 10 times as dense. The Housing Authority manages about 500 low-income housing units in Henry County, including about 170 in Fairview, the largest settlement by far, and 44 more just down the road in Lakeland settlement, serving over 500 people in between.
“Things are going by shear and probability,” Hathaway said of police calls in the Fairview neighborhood.
Click here to see who lives at Fairview Homes and Lakeland Terrace
A safe place to live
Hathaway said the Housing Authority has gone to great lengths to make Fairview a good neighbor and a safe place to live.
In 2020 alone, Fairview and other homes in the county received many upgrades, including improvements to interior and exterior lighting and new security camera systems. It also updated the common areas and suffered a “rebrand” of authority and its website.
In recent years, he has reinstated the tenant identification system, made the guest list requirements more stringent, and installed new apartment numbers to make individual addresses stand out. He banned smoking three years ago and applicants must pass a financial and criminal background check.
The facility also employs a part-time Kewanee Police Officer who oversees security and anyone who does not live there must register for a guest pass, which limits the length of stay. a visitor. Anyone who does not live there can be ticketed for trespassing if they have not requested a guest pass. Cameras ensure surveillance of the entire property.
Prior to the part-time agent, the Housing Authority had employed a full-time agent in Fairview. This stopped because of the cost, which Hathaway said was enough to fund two more maintenance workers to process the nearly 400 work orders submitted last month.
Hathaway said she was sure there were residents who were using drugs – and at the same rate as the general population – but residents who are caught in the act of drug trafficking are arrested, prosecuted and seen seeing each other. ban public housing for life.
“We have no power other than to report this,” she said. “We will follow the eviction very aggressively when there is any type of criminal behavior that is detrimental to the neighborhood.”
She said the shelter is not a stronghold of drug use, as it is sometimes described by the public.
“It’s hard to know, but people aren’t standing outside their units and shooting or using it in front of you,” she said.
But the folks in Fairview tend to congregate outdoors frequently, right?
Although Hathaway said it was true, she says it’s not as bad as a passer-by might imagine – it’s just another result of the high-density nature of a housing estate.
“This common space is their front porch. Don’t everyone congregate on their front porch?” she said, noting that authorities enforce rules to reduce clutter or toys left in common areas, and that Fairview is old but not the dilapidated slums mentioned by that 1939 Kewanee newspaper article.
Hathaway said the transportation issues that traditionally required residents to take a long walk to the grocery store or health department were mostly addressed by county transportation services or local ridesharing services. The housing authority can also offer transportation vouchers to residents who need them.
She said seeing the Save-A-Lot store move away a few years away presented mobility issues for that side of town, but moving the health department to a city location helped resolve some of the issues. these problems. Additionally, she said some residents used federal stimulus payments to purchase their own vehicles.
“Their access to food and basic necessities has improved,” she said.
Residents of Fairview are provided with a host of other tools designed to promote self-sufficiency and the eventual goal of private housing.
To help them navigate the services available, from getting state food aid cards to daycare, the housing authority offers a social services employee.
“She will do what she can to help you become self-reliant and there are no strings attached,” Hathaway said.
Housing officials have tried to involve residents more in their community by re-establishing a citizens’ council, but like the general public there has not been much political buy-in to take the extra time to sit on a council. .
The turnover rate in Fairview is around eight residents per month, although Hathaway said some residents have lived there for years but can afford to live elsewhere. There are many reasons they stay, but one of the reasons is that perceptions about the housing complex are far scarier than actually living there.
“It’s their family, it’s their home,” she said. “Sometimes people choose to live in Fairview.”
Hathaway said she didn’t know when the 1940s housing structure would come to the end of her life.
So far, she said, its brick construction has enabled it to serve local residents for generations and its maintenance is always cheaper than building a new complex. There are also additional concerns about how its replacement might result in historic preservation protections and any “fair housing” litigation that might arise with such a change of course.
But when that day comes to re-imagine Fairview, the director knows the first thing she’ll change:
“I would decrease the density,” she said.