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Ferndale Residents Discuss Crime, Neighborhood Group at Digital Learning Center Meeting

A forum for the Dales neighborhood was held at the former Taft Education Center Thursday evening.

More than 50 residents of the Dales neighborhood, along with city and school officials, packed the media library at the Digital Learning Center Thursday evening for a meeting about the school.

The public forum was initiated by neighbors who have had concerns over recent criminal activity that happened outside of the school on Allen Street, formerly known as the Taft Education Center.

Last December, a student was shot in the leg outside the school in what police called a "robbery gone bad." This past October, several students were arrested after a fight outside the school. A gang-related fight was reported the following week.

The Digital Learning Center is an alternative high school that took over the building at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. This electronic approach to learning is what Ferndale Public Schools Superintendent Gary Meier calls "an evolution of adult and alternative education programming.”

Though 800 students attend the DLC, no more than 250 are present at the school at any given time, school officials explained.

The students are sorted by groups - the ‘A’ group attends class all day Monday and Tuesday, and in the mornings only on Wednesday. The ‘B’ group attends class Wednesday afternoon and all day on Thursday and Friday. The ‘C’ group, made up of about 200 students, is online only.

Ferndale Police Chief Tim Collins said 33 staff members and a resource police officer are employed at the DLC, compared with 50 staff members and one police officer to watch over 1,200 students at the Ferndale High School and Middle School building on Pinecrest.

The students at the DLC live in multiple cities other than Ferndale including Berkley, Detroit, Macomb, Romulus, Oak Park and Madison Heights, said
DLC director Renee Heard.

Crime statistics presented

Chief Collins showed statistical charts to those present at Thursday night's meeting. With a map displaying the area within 1,500 feet of the school, he compared data from 2011 and 2012. Last year from Aug. 22 through Nov, 8, six assaults happened within that area; two of those were associated with Taft.

Since the beginning of this school year, three robberies happened within the map; two were associated with the DLC.

After seeing the data displayed by Collins, many of the residents expressed concern that the police department was not taking into account incidents that happened after-hours and during the night, as well as by students' friends who do not attend the school.

One resident said, "The Dales were a sleepy, little neighborhood until the school came here."

Others were concerned as to how the DLC is working with its students to address the issues that have been happening there.

"We're working for the good of the students who attend school here as well as the good of the neighborhood," said Superintendent Meier.

Second meeting scheduled

There will be another public forum held on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. Those with questions or who are interested in learning more about the DLC can call the main office at (248) 586-8910.

DLC director Renee Heard said school officials would like to hold regular monthly meetings in the future. She also expressed desire to form a School Improvement Committee, inviting residents to come and represent the community.

Ferndale City Council member Melanie Piana, who is also a resident of the Dales and helped organize the meeting, suggested that certain steps need to be taken in forming a neighborhood group. These steps include figuring out the boundaries of the neighborhood, identifying the challenges present and creating a plan, as well as establishing a committee.

Residents expressed that at the Dec. 5 meeting, they would like more information on the graduation rates in the past of Taft students, the percent of those attending the DLC that are Ferndale residents, the resources being used to address the crime issue and exactly how the school benefits Ferndale directly.

Piana said at the end of the meeting that tonight was not about “finding solutions but figuring out” the steps to head in the right direction.

Anyone who notices any suspicious activity in their neighborhood is asked to call 911 if it is an emergency or the non-emergency line of the Ferndale Police Dept. at (248) 541-3650.

You can also find out more information by visiting the Dales Facebook page.

Brian Clark November 16, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Lots of people seem to be dancing around the subject of why we have the Digital Learning Center or other alternative education programs. We need an answer to the this question: If we closed the Digital Learning Center and did not host any similar alternative education program in Ferndale, what would be the impact on our budget and other educational programs? I expect the new "BOLD" group of school board members to address this issue directly. I'm not saying we should close the program, and I'm not saying money is the only factor or even the most important factor, but I think residents need to know what impact such a decision would have. If closing the program means we either find more revenue or start cutting other educational programs, this needs to be part of the discussion.
Carla November 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I was there last night as well. I appreciate having the forum but it became obvious that more discussions need to be had in the future as there were lots of unresolved issues. I want to thank those involved with putting the meeting together and for setting up the next meeting on December 5. I also do appreciate the efforts of the school staff, I have no doubt they work very hard to help these kids. The goals of the school are commendable, and I don't think anyone doesn't want these kids to have an education. I also do appreciate the work of our police force, I know they are very dedicated as well. That being said, I found little comfort in the information presented last night. I think every citizen who attended was more concerned about safety in the neighborhood then the change of name and functioning of the school. 1) I'm not sure if the police chief even looked at his stats before presenting them, because all I saw was a doubling of crimes from 2011 to 2012 in our area, whereas around the other high schools crime decreased or was stable. It basically worked out to a serious crime every 3-4 days our 1500sq ft area. This IS signifcant. Also, as far as I'm concerned this essentially the same population of students so I don't see why we have to act like this is a whole new situation. I want to look at records comparing 2010 to 2011 and what we have so far of 2012. 2) how many kids are from Ferndale? 3) how they are referred 4) can they do background criminal check?
Carla November 16, 2012 at 04:28 PM
5) how much more time do they police spend patrolling the Dale neighborhood? are we okay with diverting more police attention to this area? 6) i wonder how often the police are called to the other high schools. The chief tried to make a point that fights and thefts happen at the other high schools, but a stolen iPod is VERY different from armed robbery that happened at Taft last year 7) there have been gang fights. Does this happen at the other schools? Once again, I feel like they were glossing over the seriousness of the crimes happening at DLC/old Taft. 8) I feel like the city is probably making money off of this school, especially since a good portion of the students just do work online. My concern is that the city is making money off the school and telling us not to worry about our safety, that everythings okay.
Carla November 16, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I agree with Brian as well. We need to know more about the financials involved. How much money are we making from the school? How much are we spending on it? Why did we choose to start this school? Didn't Jefferson have to close last year due to low attendance?
monte November 16, 2012 at 05:47 PM
More Police presence is very important in the neighborhoods of Ferndale. There is talk of another "night club" going into the space where the Dollar Store was in Downtown. Ferndale and it's Downtown area are experiencing economic growth, have great potential moving forward and at a crossroad with respect to how to use its resources. City Council and DDA have to consider denying a liquor license to a business that will divert more Police attention to Downtown and away from protecting the schools and the residential areas of our city until they have the revenue to keep our Police Dept. (The Mid-West Finest by the way) from being an exhausted force.
Deb November 17, 2012 at 03:05 AM
I was at last night's meeting. As citizens of the world we can't have a not in my neighborhood attitude. If not us, then who? In the long run, graduating more students reduces crime because it provides more opportunity to make an honest living. We need to continue the dialog to come up with ways to let the students know bad behavior won't be tolerated and set a good example.
Ferndale_1986 November 17, 2012 at 02:07 PM
"citizens of the world"? you're kidding, right?
Thomas Gagne November 17, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Deb, your heart is in the right place, but it isn't the gesture you want it to be when you do it with other people's money. Contribute your money to the causes you think are worthy, but tax dollars are taken for a specific purpose. And the FSD's primary purpose is to educate FSD students and not exploit Detroit's problems for our financial gain. The last part makes me a little queasy, but others sleep well knowing it.
Brian Smith November 17, 2012 at 07:36 PM
For the last time...follow the $$$...at Taft and at UHS....NO Ferndale students....
Laura Berger November 17, 2012 at 10:04 PM
Wouldn't it be amazing, though, to turn this on its head and actually make it work for the students AND the district AND the community? I won't pretend that the intention in developing this program was altruistic, but Deb's comment resonates with me, and I bet many others. I sure would be proud if Ferndale could, in this small way, be part of the solution of a problem in our little corner of the world. And yes, with my tax dollars.
Laura Berger November 18, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Write who a check, Brian? My understanding is that these students come with state dollars. In which case, I've already written my check.
W. Lemelin November 18, 2012 at 01:00 PM
This may answer a few questions, but probably raise more... The vast majority of my practice is defending individuals accused of felonies in Wayne County. In 2012 alone, I have had no less than a dozen clients who were Taft or Jefferson students. I can't speak for the hundreds of other attorneys who do what I do, but I suspect that I am not the only one with clients who are Ferndale students. Suffice it to say that the Wayne County Circuit Court judges and probation department are very familiar with Ferndale Schools. The Courts do not send our clients to Ferndale but as a condition of probation they have to stay in school or get an education. Furthermore, I can't speculate on the numbers of misdemeanants at DCL because I only handle felonies. I would be interested in knowing how much revenue these programs are bringing to the district and how much extra municipal services (police/courts) they are costing the district.
Ferndale_1986 November 18, 2012 at 02:02 PM
I will bet none of the city council or school board members actually live next to all these social projects they support and foist upon the residents.
Brian Clark November 18, 2012 at 08:11 PM
At least one is: "Ferndale City Council member Melanie Piana, who is also a resident of the Dales and helped organize the meeting..."
Rusty Griswald, Esq November 20, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Move to Royal Oak
R_ue November 21, 2012 at 04:37 AM
in 2 years here in ferndale i will no doubt be pushing for a move in 2013. i have felt less than safe with a nearby drug house where the owners were not jailed and were deemed "not a flight risk" yet fled the state and possibly the country- had feds looking for them and have a friend from Detroit squatting- only to have the police tell us they went concerned about it- and leading my story into Taft- same thing- i feel the chief is just trying to pull the wool over our eyes so we think we are safe- i witness the cops driving crazy speeds to get there during these crimes/fights/etc. Im not oblivious to what going on. Im too close to that school to be naive. ive seen kids hanging out there at all hours of the night outside-not sayingthey were up to no good but it does make me feel safe that the chief is pretty much saying we don't need to be concerned!
AdamR November 21, 2012 at 02:34 PM
R_ue, Please indicate where in Ferndale this drug house is. Maybe by publicly shaming the police they will do something. Please provide more details. Side note, does Ferndale has a social media site that lets citizens activity report problems? For instance, I'm constantly seeing kids drinking and smoking pot at Geary Park. If I were able to note in publicly, this not only helps the police, but makes a public record that all Ferndale residents can see. It should be available to all and have a history of all reported incidents. Am I that naive to think that by keeping easily accessible open public records showing reports made by residents it will help the police and ultimately the community? The police can then establish patterns. How many times have you see something that seems questionable but don't think it warrants a call to the police? This could be like an online neighborhood watch group.
Thomas Gagne November 21, 2012 at 03:04 PM
AdamR, that's an interesting idea. A really interesting idea. Would people be willing to use their regular Facebook identities, or must it include anonymous posts? How would such a thing keep from deteriorating into a complaint fest, or should such nonsense simply be tolerated/ignored?
Brian Clark November 21, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Before posting addresses (or pictures, names, etc.) maybe first indicate evidence that this is actually a drug house. If the Ferndale police are ignoring serious drug dealing activity, that is an issue. If there are just a bunch of "people from Detroit" living in a house in Ferndale, that's not a reason to call in the SWAT team or accuse the police of failure. This tread may be an indicator of the possible benefits and negative results of a "community awareness" page. Any social media site for reporting problems in the city should be balanced with or focused on solutions, community building, and constructive discussions. If it's simply a place to anonymously post fears and assumptions about people possibly doing things we don't like or looking like people we don't like, we don't need it.
AdamR November 21, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Brian, I couldn't agree with you more. I was just throwing out an idea. Obviously, it would need to be properly monitored. This isn't meant to be a lynch mob.
AdamR November 21, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Although, I wouldn't mind having a rental property hall of shame where we can post pictures of poorly kept rental properties that are an eye sore.
AdamR November 21, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Thomas, I'm not sure if anonymity will work. Bottom line is, people do not want call the police emergency or non emergency lines and feel like nuisances. People are more likely to report problems hiding behind their computers. Unfortunately, this also means that ignorant people can make false statements. Facebook is probably best idea because people will feel some level of accountability.
Brian Clark November 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I appreciate the response! I think it's an idea worth discussion. It may be a great way to raise awareness and communication. I don't think you want to organize a mob. I hope no one wants to organize a mob, but I'm not so sure.
Thomas Gagne November 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
The more I think about it, I have a hard time coming up with anything the police may not want to know about--whether you call their non-emergency line or 911, I'm confident they want to know what residents are seeing. I'm pretty sure they also need to know how frequent the problem is--and they'll only know that if you call the and there's a record of the complaint. I also suggest residents keep records of their own phone calls to police, so if the problem isn't handled you have some data to address the police chief about.
T. Scott Galloway November 21, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Actually 3 council people and the Mayor live within a short walk from DLC and University.
Ferndale_1986 November 22, 2012 at 06:10 AM
@T. Scott Galloway Nice try to spin, Scott. It's the answer I would expect from a lawyer. But actually the Mayor lives 8 blocks and about 1/2 mile away, hardly close enough to have to deal with the problems of Taft. And a "short walk" isn't equal to having to live across the street or right next to DLC or University High School. You have a lot of nerve lecturing us on how we should welcome this into our neighborhoods when you don't have to live next to it.
R_ue November 23, 2012 at 03:38 AM
AdamR- For the safety of my family, I dont want to give too many details on here or publicly shame the police, but trust me, FPD knows about it all- its gotten pretty far in the system. Brian Clark- FPD is aware of the drug house and the dealings going on. It has gotten pretty far in the system (the case- despite the fact the owners were not arrested). I am not accusing the FPD with failing by any means- because the buck was passed; I am only saying that there were so many stones unturned and so much that went on- and with whatever reason (lack of resources, etc) nothing came of it other than a brush off. To me, the situation was poorly handled by whoever, and still is. I dont understand how an open investigation would allow for other people to just move in under the radar and those people not "being a concern", they could be from grosse pointe, or sterling heights and I would still be curious how another group of individuals could move in under these circumstances
R_ue November 28, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Since the chief refuses to get back to me does anyone have another avenue I can seek out info regarding the drug house situation or free advice on the law regarding it?
ferndaleluv December 03, 2012 at 12:40 AM
If you think there is drug activity going on and the ferndale police wont do anything about it you could try calling the D.E.A? They are always looking to bust up drug rings, and if you think they are selling high quantities they would probably be very curious about it. You could also tell the Ferndale PD you are going to call the DEA and that might light a fire under them since no local PD wants federal guys hassling them.
R_ue December 05, 2012 at 03:33 AM
I am sure the d.e.a is involved...it's gone pretty far in the system. Neither department is really as involved as they should be. I bet it has something to do with the guilty's Ferndale status.

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