Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Salt Lake Sig Eps Lead Neighborhood Coalition

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Police Chief Chris Burbank talks at as the Federal Heights Neighborhood Association, Sigma Phi Epsilon Frat and Greater Avenues Community Council meet with police as they launch the 'Neighbors Helping Neighbors' Program, Aug. 3, 2010.

Residents Hopeful for Neighborhood Change

By Lana Groves

SALT LAKE CITY — Drugs, underage drinking, noise, obscenities — it wasn't what Beth Arnett expected when she moved into her home within walking distance of several fraternity and sorority houses across from the University of Utah.

Parking was a minor issue in comparison, Arnett explained, and that was a nightmare in itself when hundreds of U. students of all ages would park in and around her neighborhood for a party or gathering.

But Arnett is hopeful all that will change through a partnership with the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the new Salt Lake police-sponsored Neighbors Helping Neighbors program launched Tuesday.

Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank announced to hopeful local residents how the new program would allow people to watch their neighborhood and record suspicious or possibly criminal activity in a diary to report to police.

"Detectives will follow up the information and work with the neighborhood," Burbank said. "It will help solve crimes and even prevent crimes."

The U. branch of Sigma Phi Epsilon said they became involved last year after several problems with neighbors complaining to police of loud noises, raucous parties and trash accumulating on the street afterward.

"We wanted to change the mentality," Sigma Phi Epsilon president Mitch Christensen said. "The idea for so long was that they're just the neighbors who always create problems. But really, we're the problem. They just don't want bottles in their yard."

So the fraternity approached Arnett and the Federal Heights Neighborhood Association she's a member of about changing the norm.

The two groups have joined together and are supporting the new program by posting yard signs that list a police contact number and other information about the program.

The program was also introduced in several other areas of the city Tuesday night, and police distributed lawn signs for residents, indicating their household is free of drugs and gang members.

Residents can download diaries from the police department's website at www.slcpd.com/neighbors. All completed diaries submitted to police will remain confidential.

The initial connection with the association has helped Sigma Phi Epsilon, the fraternity said.

"It helps our house so much," Christensen said. "The amount of calls we get from police has decreased a lot."

The U. fraternity said it has already contacted another fraternities and sororities about working with the association to reduce problems for residents.

"There are still problems," Arnett said. "But we're hoping to see the culture change."

To obtain a lawn sign, residents can contact a community officer. A complete list of officers is posted online at http://www.slcpd.com/getinvolved/community-officers.