The Board of Aldermen will talk again Tuesday about problems associated with men gathering for work at Jones Ferry and Davie roads.
The town, in 2011, lifted a ban on people standing or sitting at the corner between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m. after civil rights groups complained that it selectively targeted immigrants. El Centro Hispano opened a center to help workers find employment about a mile away at its 201 W. Weaver St. office in April 2015.
The workers on the corner know about the center, said Jasmin Mendoza, the lead organizer of the workers center. It serves diverse clients, including African-American and homeless men and women, offering help with employment and related issues.
However, the center has not had a community outreach coordinator at the corner for about six months, Mendoza said. They hired a new coordinator last week, she said, but change will be difficult as long as employers, including many home owners, still go the corner for workers.
Some men also choose the corner because they’ve been there for years or like the social aspect, she said. Some don’t like the center, where they have to sign up for first-come, first-served job assignments.
Those who get jobs at the corner usually are gone by 9 a.m., she said.
Roughly a dozen men were on the corner at noon Wednesday. It’s fewer than before, but residents said the problems with alcohol, trespassing, public urination and rude comments directed at women are growing.
“If you don’t want to have an anti-loitering ordinance, you need to do something for this community to make us safe and secure in our houses,” resident Emily Kreutzer told the Board of Aldermen.
We need to stop people from hanging out there, because what they are doing is getting drunk, breaking into houses and harassing women and girls.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist
Some aldermen spoke up for a new anti-loitering sign and more aggressive enforcement against improper behavior.
“We need to at least enforce to the point where we’ve made it very clear what the expectations of the town are,” Alderwoman Bethany Chaney said. “And then if there’s a deeper problem – and there obviously is – we need to figure out how to create an outreach, mechanism, to deal with the social problems that might actually be causing the activity on the corner.”
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist was more stern.
“In the real world, there are women and girls being harassed by people – I don’t care what their problems are; I don’t care what their background is – they happen to be jerks standing on a corner harassing women,” Gist said.
“We need to stop people from hanging out there, because what they are doing is getting drunk, breaking into houses and harassing women and girls,” she said.
Changing the culture will take a group effort, Police Chief Walter Horton said.
They’ve answered 424 calls within a few hundred feet of the corner this year.
Most were officer responses to something they saw. But the total also included 45 nuisance and disturbance complaints, one burglary, six assaults, one robbery, 16 thefts and 28 loitering citations. Two break-ins were reported nearby in the last two months.
Police have stepped up patrols but can’t be there 24 hours a day, Horton said. He urged residents to continue calling 911.