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Bloomington Housing Collaborative, Police Want More Community House Discussion

Members of the West Bloomington Housing Collaborative want to hear more from residents about a proposed police substation at 828 West Jefferson Street. 

Matt Drat is Director of Resource Development and Community Engagement for Mid Central Community Action, the collaborative's lead agency seeking input. 

He spoke at the regular Bloomington Police Chief focus meeting Wednesday night, and took questions from those opposed to using it as a substation. Drat said the agency is looking for more community input into what it refers to as the "Jefferson Street Community House."

"No matter what this project looks like, this is about building relationships throughout the community, but first and foremost, neighbor to neighbor," said Drat. "We know that when there are strong neighborhoods, crime and safety will be dealt with just as a matter of course."

Drat said some residents believe safety is a concern, and that a greater police presence would improve safety for the neighborhood. He acknowledged that others don't agree with the use of the house as a substation.  

Drat said he hopes the Community House may be able to reduce tension and emotion over community and police relationships by offering a place for positive interactions.

Bloomington's Police Chief said residents and police must communicate openly about the possible Community House.

Opponents of BPD leasing the house from Mid-Central Community Action voiced their concerns to Brendan Heffner during the focus meeting. Some argued that more police officers in the neighborhood would mean more police harassment. 

Heffner said the intention isn't to send more officers to the neighborhood, but rather, officers already assigned to that area would be able to hang out at the house.

"In order to lower crime at times, you need good communication with the residents. Then neighbors can start talking and maybe they can start giving us more information, and back and forth," said Heffner. "It will help us lower crime over there. But I'll tell you one thing certainly, less presence of law enforcement will not do anything but have crime rise."

The proposal calls for Bloomington Police to lease the house from Mid-Central for $1 per month. Heffner said the house would be used for officers to file reports, eat meals, and take breaks. Heffner said it could also be used for neighborhood meetings and drop-ins for youth. 

The Bloomington City Council will  discuss the Jefferson Street Community House on January 23. 

Mike joined GLT's staff as a student reporter in February of 2016 having worked previously as a reporter at Illinois State University's student radio station, 103.3 WZND. He acted as a director for the WZND newsroom for two years. Mike was also seen as a reporter, producer, and anchor at TV-10 News. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism in May of 2017 before starting his post-graduate career with the Public Affairs Reporting Masters Program at University of Illinois Springfield.