More than 200 calls have brought Rockford Police to the Fairgrounds Housing Complex or the area nearby in the last month. In some people's eyes that's not necessarily a bad thing. Some including the police and the housing authority believe they are starting to see more calls and arrests because people finally feel safe to speak out.
"First it was nobody. Now you have the resident saying we agree we're not going to take this anymore," says Ron Clewer, Rockford Housing Authority CEO.
That's why Clewer thinks there were 113 calls for problems inside the Fairgrounds Development last month and 85 to the area surrounding. But he doesn't think it's anything the housing authority did. He thinks its people like Myron Simmons who is part of a residents' council. Simmons walks the grounds at least three times a day offering his phone number if people are afraid to call 9-1-1 themselves and urging residents to take a stand.
"Stop letting the ones who are doing it into your house. When you see them on the grounds tell them they need to get away from here because you don't want the trouble," says Simmons.
But not everyone is convinced the extra calls are from people speaking out. Some Fairgrounds residents say it's because crime is getting worse. Police made 20 arrests there last month including 2 for drugs and one a weapon.
"Fairgrounds have been on are radar for several months, a lot of times it will happen in the late night hours when there are large groups and it has been on are radar," says Deputy Chief Dave Hopkins.
But even officers say they have seen a difference in how residents interact with them. Simmons believes a large part has been groups that are bringing people together like the exercise classes the University of Illinois College of Medicine is offering and lunches and activities from the Rockford Park District and even new clubs meeting at the community center.
"I've learned especially from my own kids that they will sit around here, they come out here and play but within 2 hours they are bored and that's when the trouble come in cause now you are bored and you need something else to do. So we're trying to implement jobs, we clean up around here, we do all types of activities with the kids," says Simmons.
Another new activity the Winnebago County Health Department is hosting the first ever community dinner at Fairgrounds with the idea of getting more families and neighbors to eat together.
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