Sunday, April 18, 2010

Center Street Patrol- 04.17.10

Center Street
I do have a personal interest in RLSHs activities in Riverwest, the neighborhood I live in.

If they are successful, even on a small scale, the neighborhood benefits. If their presence by patrolling does nothing, well, Riverwest has suffered nothing more than a rash of superhero sightings. We've seen a lot of weird stuff in this neighborhood.

I'm interested in trying to get a community wide reaction to the concept of RLSH.

It's really, really easy to get a react quote from someone- i.e. grabbing someone stumbling out of a Center Street bar and saying "hey buddy, take a look at these superhero characters- whaddaya think?!"
Here's what they'll say (probably): "Whoa bro, pretty wild!"

It's also easy to get a quote from a police spokesperson or a psychologist or whoever.
Here's what they're going to say (probably): "Gee, we like the idea of people helping other people out, but we're concerned about their safety."

But how does a community react? Do they embrace the idea and support their local heroes? Will they join them in their quest? Will they be met with indifference, or worse, run out of Riverwest on a rail?

These are questions I don't have complete answers for, and never really will. I can't make a conclusion that represents the entire neighborhood. I can only report things as they go.
Center Street

Saturday, April 16, 17:00- HEROES IN THE NIGHT HQ (My Kitchen)- RIVERWEST

The Watchman showed up. The night was about patrolling, but also speaking to people in Riverwest, making a connection, hearing their opinions. I was able to facilitate some of this. I've met a lot of people in the neighborhood as a writer, through various projects, and just hanging out goofing around.

We discussed upcoming events (which I'll elaborate on when we figure out more details), and then headed out for a social call.


Actually I don't think it's a great mystery. I'm not sure if they want me to use their names at this point, though, so I'll just call them "Mr. & Mrs. Smith." I'm sure they've secretly always wanted aliases.

Anyway, why are these people good people for The Watchman to communicate with? Well, they are both highly intelligent, well connected within the community and have both worked proactively to try to make the area a better place through data collection and organization.

The Watchman had decided to make the visit sans mask. This is probably a sensible approach, although Mr. & Mrs. Smith's kids seem disappointed Batman hasn't shown up.

The Smith's were very gracious hosts and invited me and The Watchman to join them at the dinner table to partake in hot dogs and steaks off the grill. Mr. Smith shared with us some ideas on ways regular citizens can help deter crime and talked about nearby areas that have suffered from crime.

I think that Mr. Smith is giving the idea the benefit of the doubt. He'd like to see if it can work, and has offered assistance with information, even saying he would volunteer to be an "oracle" or "operator" for future patrols.

--> (for more info on what an oracle is, read this post)

He also put some thought into what would make a group patrolling the Center Street area effective and came up with a list of ideas. I think his ideas are not only good, sensible ones for Riverwest, but for any group RLSH themed- or not- trying to start a concerned citizens group. You can read his ideas at the post previous to this one HERE.


We thanked the Smiths for their hospitality and ideas and headed back to my house to meet up with the mysterious Blackbird. He and Watchman put on their gear and masks and Blackbird showed off his new night vision device.


We walked about five blocks from my house to meet up with a couple people.

Tim has been a Riverwest resident for about a year and a half, and a posting on the Riverwest Neighborhood site led him to my blog and he got in touch with The Watchman. He was interested in seeing what it was all about and wanted to be out there helping to deter crime. A couple other people have expressed interest as well, except they were wrapped up for the night.

We were also joined by Tom Tolan who works for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and is thinking of writing an article in the future and was along to kind of get a feel for the story. I was very happy he joined us, because Tom has written the book on Riverwest. Literally- Riverwest: A Community History by Tom Tolan. This book follows the rich history of the neighborhood, from European immigration to the neighborhood becoming a counter culture and civil rights center in the '60's to a modern look at the neighborhood today. Some excerpts HERE.
Center Street


We are standing in a group, talking, in the darkness of a basketball court by an elementary school on Center Street. In the background you can see the giant radio towers on Capitol Drive, dozens of blinking red lights in the sky.

We are joined by Matt, a friend of mine who is going to school for film. We have been talking of shooting some short videos for the blog here, footage of the guys out on streets and short interviews. He doesn't have his camera tonight, but wanted to meet the guys and walk around with us for a bit. Everyone is curious to ask Watchman and Blackbird about their gear and methodology.

When people comment on the street, Watchman stops and tries to explain what he's all about. We get the first few catcalls I've expected- at least a couple people shout "KICK ASS!" as we walk around. Topical reference. I suppose the amount of the explanation that sinks in depends on how intoxicated the individual is. After all, it is Saturday night in Riverwest.


And actually it's pretty quiet for a Saturday night. It may be that the night is fairly chilly. We walk in a loop similar to the last Riverwest patrol- side streets and alleyways around Center and Clarke streets. After awhile we head back towards Burleigh when we are joined by Groschopf, famed leader of Team Cthulhu who joined us last patrol. Tom and Matt split at this point.


I'm a bit sleep deprived, so me and Groschopf decide to split. Watchman and Tim continue to walk around. Blackbird stays in touch but heads to the South side to do some patrolling of that area.

More organizing and another tentatively scheduled patrol soon.

UPDATE: First request for help! Sent today, 04.20.10:
RE: Superheroes! Help my block!
to: watchman, me
I live at [Address deleted]. I am increasingly becoming more and more frightened in my neighborhood. The house at [Address deleted] contains some shady characters that seem to attract even more shady characters. Could you patrol down my street?

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