Sunday, July 13, 2014

OUR OPINION: W-B CRIME Crackdown needed at Sherman Hills

November 16. 2013 10:56PM
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The Sherman Hills apartment complex in Wilkes-Barre increasingly resembles a shooting gallery, which last week turned deadly.

The property’s owners need to take aggressive action to stop the gunplay and the lesser crime problems plaguing this troubled 22-acre site — and by extension, the entire community — or be held accountable by government officials from Wilkes-Barre to Washington.

In particular, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should continue to scrutinize the policies and practices of Brooklyn-based Sherman Hills Realty LLC, which has a contract to provide housing for HUD-funded recipients. Already, a recently conducted HUD review of the 344-unit complex had “concluded that the management of the property is unsatisfactory,” according to a statement the department released Tuesday.

Sherman Hills Realty’s ownership has until Nov. 30 to respond to HUD’s findings.

Separately, the city of Wilkes-Barre fined the realty company $33,000 in September for allegedly failing to inspect apartments prior to new occupants moving in, as required by city code. The company had yet to pay as of mid-week, and it was appealing the penalty, according to Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton.

The time for denying the severity of this public safety issue, for any potential stonewalling or the proclivity to let attorneys do all the talking ended at about 4:18 p.m. Monday, when bullets ripped into the abdomen of Shantique Goodson while she was seated in a vehicle in a Sherman Hills parking lot.

The 27-year-old died Monday night at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township. Goodson is the city’s 13th homicide victim this year.

Presumably, the property’s owners realize the gravity of the ongoing situation and the low regard with which many Wyoming Valley residents now hold their operation. “Shut Sherman Hills down before a real disaster happens,” wrote a commenter on The Times Leader’s website. Another online post read, “Once the private owners get hit in pocketbook things will change.”

To its credit, the housing complex reportedly did implement new residency rules this summer after a pair of girls, ages 5 and 2, were shot while in an apartment where a dispute between adults turned violent. Both girls survived.

The complex — located off Coal Street, a newly refurbished gateway to the city’s downtown — previously did not have its own security force; it employed off-duty city police officers to provide security on most weekends, according to a prior news report.

Even so, the location seems favored by far too many criminal suspects, some of whom are caught running to, running from, hiding in or otherwise having some connection to Sherman Hills apartments. Regrettably, the number and nature of these incidents tend to foster unfair perceptions about all Sherman Hills residents, the majority of whom are decent people, and the living conditions in Wilkes-Barre, which remains a relatively safe city.

If the owners of Sherman Hills fail to act in a decisive and timely fashion, the area’s contingent of local, state and federal lawmakers must exert pressure on the people and agencies that will act. Too much is at stake for for this trouble to fester in the Wyoming Valley’s heart any longer.

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