Citizen Staff Writer
Some people who live near the intersection of East Grant Road and North Alvernon Way used to avoid shops there.
“People want to shop near their homes,” said Blanche White, 73, president of the Oak Flower Neighborhood Association, one of four neighborhoods bordering the intersection.
But “in one neighborhood meeting, someone said, ‘I don’t feel safe there, so I drive to another place farther away.’
“That was really eye opening, I think.”
Since that meeting some months back, the four neighborhood associations – Oak Flower, Garden District, Palo Verde and Dodge Flower – have worked with area businesses and organizations to make shopping a safer and more pleasant experience.
The associations are honoring seven with Business Good Neighbor Awards at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Tucson Botanical Gardens Pavilion, 2150 N. Alvernon Way.
The Botanical Gardens is one of the honorees for offering its facilities for neighborhood meetings and special events.
The others are Specialists in Dermatology, Northgate Laundromat & Cleaners, Fry’s, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Sign-A-Rama and Emerge!
Those honored will get a certificate and a placard proclaiming they make good neighbors to place in their front windows.
“We have a lot of neighborhood businesses that are deserving,” White said. She added that more awards will be forthcoming.
The two businesses in her neighborhood, Specialists in Dermatology and Northgate Laundromat & Cleaners, both had good reason to nab the awards.
The dermatology practice worked with residents even before the office was built a few years back. Some employees have attended neighborhood cleanups.
The laundromat has increased security by making sure a worker is always present and posting a security guard at night.
“One of the problems we have is the panhandlers that hang out in the parking lot,” White said. “Businesses have made more efforts to put security guards out, to walk people to their cars if they don’t feel safe. It’s improved considerably.”
The entire area has improved, said Tucson Police Department Capt. David Neri, who is in charge of the midtown division.
The Good Neighbor Awards are just one phase of a larger program, the Alvernon-Grant Initiative. Those involved include the associations, area businesses, Tucson police, City Council Wards 3 and 6, and Pima County Supervisor Districts 3 and 5.
Efforts began about four years ago, Neri said. One of the most successful phases started in February 2008.
“In our first monthly report, we removed in excess of 40 weapons off the street,” Neri said. A number of arrests and confiscated narcotics also were part of the effort.
“It’s far safer now than it has ever been.”
Progress has been marked from February 2008 to February 2009 with a 60 percent reduction in burglaries, auto thefts and all types of fraud, leading to a 13 percent overall dip in crime.
“It’s really a great project,” said George Pettit, spokesman for Councilwoman Karin Uhlich’s Ward 3 office. “People are working hard trying to turn around the neighborhood. It’s really a feel good kind of thing.”