Huntsville launches pilot program to provide enhanced community policing, city support

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The City of Huntsville is piloting a neighborhood program designed to provide enhanced community policing and city support.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle announced the program during a press conference on Wednesday.

“We’ve been looking at programs that will help to rejuvenate older neighborhoods, and this is our first step toward an innovative community partnership,” said Battle.

The Neighborhood Resource Center will be in a home renovated by Habitat for Humanity — located at 3014 Sonya Drive, 35810 — and will be staffed by Huntsville police who will help to build resources around a neighborhood so that residents may be the champions of their cause.

Police say they’re looking forward to working with neighbors to identify projects and programs that will enable them to shape outcomes, strengthen their community, and capitalize on the integrity and spirit of the amazing people who live in the area.

“We’re not coming in to fix a neighborhood,” said Captain Jeff Rice, North Huntsville Precinct Commander. “We’re here in partnership, and the neighborhood will be taking the lead in telling us what they need and want.”

While Rice will be overseeing the pilot program, another champion in this effort is District 1 Council Member Devyn Keith. He sees the home as a positive alternative center that can provide quality programming, space for neighbors to interact with public safety officials, and a place for community volunteers to positively engage with each other.

“This is just another step in our ongoing effort to answer issues specific to the community we serve,” said Keith. “It is also in direct response to what homeowners have asked us to do – to provide new and innovative approaches that have shown true success across other communities. This pilot program provides a holistic approach, and it will give us an understanding about how we, as community partners, can do things better.”

While the location of the first Neighborhood Resource Center is not in statistically high crime area, it has struggled to maintain its once vibrant community.

“Our Code Enforcement Staff will spend time at the Center daily, and will be available to meet with residents on a variety of issues related to neighborhood stabilization and revitalization,” explained Michelle Jordan, Director of Planning and Community Development. “We will also work with the residents to provide services that they feel are important in order to better serve this incredible community.”

If successful, at the end of one year, the City will move the program to another neighborhood as an ongoing tool for community empowerment and connection. In turn, Habitat for Humanity will return the Sonya Drive home to its inventory of affordable housing for sale.

“Habitat’s mission is based on the philosophy of being a hand up, not a hand out, and Habitat partner families work hard to realize their dream of homeownership,” said Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Madison County Executive Myra Sanderson. “But the house is only part of this dream. Being a responsible and good neighbor is vital to building a strong neighborhood. We are excited that engaged families who want to be active involved citizens are part of this pilot program.”

The City will take over the Sonya Drive home on September 1 to start furnishing and staffing the residence. Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray and Capt. Rice plan to go door-to-door to visit neighbors and introduce them to the initiative.

In addition to Sonya Drive, the Neighborhood Resource Center will be serving residents on Melrose Drive, Deerfield Drive, Valley Park Drive, Pueblo Drive, Colfax Drive, Teton Drive and Teton Circle.

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