A few minutes after hearing a knock on his door, a hesitant and surprised elderly man opened the door and cautiously stepped out to meet three Tempe police officers to find out what was going on.
“My name is Mike Pooley from the police department. What we are doing is going around the neighborhoods,” Tempe Police Lt. Michael Pooley said. “Nobody is in any trouble or anything; we are just trying to reach out for the neighbors and welcome everybody.”
The Tempe Police Department, the City of Tempe and ASU are uniting their efforts to build community bridges as part of their three-day Welcome Back Walk, which started Monday and will continue through Wednesday. The walk targets neighborhoods with high student populations to encourage collaboration between residents and the police department.
Tempe Assistant Police Chief John Rush said the purpose of the walk was to support longtime and new community members by providing them with resources and answering their questions.
“We wanted to do something a little different this year and send a very clear message to the community that ASU, ASU PD, Tempe PD and City of Tempe are all on same page,” he said. “We are here to support you as community members.”
Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Cassidy Possehl also joined the walk. She said one of the main goals was to initiate a respectful connection between students and established community members.
“Right now we have a really large divide between those two populations, so the main goal from my perspective is to teach the students to become community members and neighbors,” she said. “Then from the flip side, to teach the community and the established residents to treat the students as neighbors.”
On the first day of the effort, teams targeted Solana Drive, just north of Broadway Road, where established residents often live next to students.
Jene Corno, 91, is a former teacher and a painter who moved to the neighborhood in 1951, right after his house had been built. More houses have since been built and more young people have moved to the neighborhood, but Corno has never had any significant problems, he said.
“(The students) have been fine,” he said. “We had a couple over here this last end of the year, and they used to have parties, but they’re fine. No problems.”
Eric Shark, a resident of the neighborhood, and his wife have lived around students for three years. He said they have seen some parties in the area, but they were never disturbed.
“There was one night … when we counted like 150 people walking to this party down there, but they were great,” Shark said. “They totally cleaned up after themselves.”
Finance senior Sadler Graham has lived in the neighborhood for a little over a year and said the key to getting along with neighbors is “mutual respect on all fronts.”
“You just have to be conscious of the fact that they are living in the same place as you are,” Graham said. “Then the next day you say, ‘Thank you for being understanding of the fact that we’re kids and we’re having fun.’ It ends up being great. If you try to make an effort to actually care, then it ends up coming right back.”
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