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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 20 2006. Interview U-0184. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Grassroots efforts and press coverage helped to eliminate a structural blockade within a low-income neighborhood

The city erected barricades to eliminate the high crime rate in Belmont. However, English argues that these barricades represented the city's structural limitations to quality living within low-income communities. Her local group's efforts and positive press attention helped to get the barriers removed from the neighborhood. These efforts revived community support for a neighborhood watch program.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 20 2006. Interview U-0184. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DIANE ENGLISH:
Yeah, sort of. After we made them happen. We sort of pushed it to happen. We had barricades that were put up in 1998 in our neighborhoods. We sort of demanded that they come down. Well, we asked that they come down because we were told they were temporary for the—. [interruption]
SARAH THUESEN:
I think it didn't catch that last little bit. If you don't mind let me just get you to explain the barricades once more. The barricades were put up to decrease crime.
DIANE ENGLISH:
Crime and to cut down on the trafficking. They said the people that was driving through buying drugs or whatever, which it did help with that part. It did help subside some of the crime in the area. People couldn't drive through to get their dope. My street, as I said, Kennon Street was a very hot street when I moved in here. It was like everybody came Kennon Street to purchase drugs. All your drug dealers used to hang on Kennon Street. During this, after six years, '98, we approached the city about—. Well, the police department in reference to when would they be taking the barricades down. That's when we were told they are permanent. We are like, well, nobody told us. You told us they were temporary. They could come down whenever. I don't think they wanted them to come down.
SARAH THUESEN:
So in '98 they had been up six years?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yeah. We were determined. After six years I'm tired of running the block to get in and out. Then people on this street here would have to take the block to go to one section. It would just beginning to be bugged out. If you're talking about revitalizing a neighborhood—who would want to buy a home in a neighborhood where you got barricades sitting in the middle of the neighborhood. It doesn't look feasible to me. I would be turned off by it. They weren't the pretty barricades. These were some wooden sticks and some red. Then they had some dirt around it where it was supposed to been pretty flowers. The people always stomped the flowers. They always trashed the area. The people on the corner usually had to clean that up, along with anything else. Then the flowers died. It was just horrible. Then the weeds would just grow up. If we didn't cut them, the city never cut them. If you are going to own a piece of property in our neighborhood at least take care of it. We just decided maybe it's time for them to come down if we going to revitalize our neighborhood. That way it would make it more presentable to people just coming through. You'd have more assets in our neighborhoods because we need all the assets—. We have a large neighborhood. We have 3500 people in our neighborhoods. That's a large neighborhood and all of the kids. We just need as much assets in and out that we can get. Everything that happens downtown, the bike-a-thons, the run-a-thons, they all want to run through Belmont for some reason. If they're running this way we are blocked in at that time. The police department told us that they couldn't take them down. It would cost X amount of money, $5000, blah, blah, blah. We were like no you didn't tell us we had to pay to take them down. You said they were temporary. This went on for about six months. They had to do surveys to find out—. We did a petition for the residents to have it taken down. The police decided, "Well, we need to do our own survey. It may just be because you people that live on the corners, that it's bothering the most. The other residents see it as a help still." We outbidded them. We had more petition names than they had. They finally—it took them another six months to come up with the monies to take the barricades down which we had one at Kennon and Parsons. We had one at Kennon and Olmstead.
SARAH THUESEN:
So two different places?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yeah, but they are both on Kennon. You go down Kennon and these are the side streets coming from Parkwood over on to Kennon Street. Kennon was your hot spot.
SARAH THUESEN:
When did they finally come down then?
DIANE ENGLISH:
It took them until 2001, I believe. I think they took them down like in 2001 or 2000. I really can't remember that date. It took us almost a year before they brought them down.
SARAH THUESEN:
What was the effect of taking them down?
DIANE ENGLISH:
We had the news media press. They came and did this big write up about it. I don't think—the police department didn't like it too well. They were invited and they were here. They just wanted to make sure that that was the thing we needed to do to keep down the traffic and the drug problem. So far we've done that.
SARAH THUESEN:
Without the barricade?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Without the barricades. It was going to happen anyway without the barricades. To me, it helped the traffic flow at that time. Nobody was really into the community watch program. A lot of people over here were afraid to call 9-1-1. A lot of people didn't communicate that they felt unsafe. They would just stay in their houses. At night they wouldn't come out. You couldn't sit on your porch or entertain because of the gunfire and the drug dealers standing around and robberies, just anytime. After the community watch program went into effect and they knew that it was a lot of people signed up for it. I think it slowed down the crime a lot. We felt more at ease really.