Neighbors relieved by police presenceThe recent rash of arson fires in Superior’s North End makes this a good time for residents to review their fire safety plans, Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse told people who turned out for a neighborhood meeting Monday at the Government Center.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The recent rash of arson fires in Superior’s North End makes this a good time for residents to review their fire safety plans, Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse told people who turned out for a neighborhood meeting Monday at the Government Center. He stressed other safety measures, such as keeping any flammable material away from buildings or vehicles, leaving yard lights on and making sure all smoke detectors work. The chief also encouraged people to glance out their windows if they’re up at night.
“If you see something suspicious, call right away,” LaGesse said.
Too often, people try to explain away something out of the ordinary, disregarding that feeling in the pit of their stomach, said Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste. Instead, they should call 911.
Someone has set six fires in the North End neighborhood since March 20. The fires have burned two vacant houses, a car, two campers and an occupied house.
“I’m scared to death now,” said Bev Robinson, who lives close to all three houses that were targeted. “I’m right there, right where they’re doing it.”
She was planning to pull neighbors together for a meeting, but the Superior Police Department and Superior Fire Department did it first. About two dozen people attended Monday’s meeting.
“I feel better,” Robinson said after it ended. “I mean, it’s not solved but I feel better to know that they’re really on it, you know.”
Jeanne Montgomery agreed it was a start.
“At least you’re getting some answers,” she said. “You know, nothing’s solved yet but they’re working on it and they’re out there. We’re not alone.”
The fires were ignited without accelerants — lit paper in a garbage can, wood pallets set on fire, the use of campfire starter sticks made of paraffin. In one vacant house, gas lines were tampered with but did not add to the fire.
LaGesse said the tight clustering of the fires indicates that the person setting them lives nearby, close enough to watch them burn.
Until there’s a resolution to the string of arsons, Fire Chief Jim Rigstad of the Superior Fire Department said the North End fire station on Hammond Avenue would remain fully staffed with four firefighters. Captain Dave Johnson with the fire department urged residents to be careful as they prepare for the city’s annual spring cleanup. Wait until close to pick up time to put items out, he said, and don’t put them close to buildings.
Police are also hoping to get tips from the community as they ramp up their presence in the area.
“We’ll be out there in the early morning hours, tonight and every night,” LaGesse said. He encouraged anyone with information to step forward. “I hope we can solve this before the next fire is lit.”
Montgomery’s husband, Ed, said lack of streetlights might be one reason the neighborhood has been targeted.
“Every arson has been in a very dark area,” he said. There is little ambient lighting, he said, but plenty of dark alleyways and “black holes.” LaGesse said it has been shown that increased lighting keeps crime down.
Another resident asked if bike patrols would be returning to the neighborhood. They were the single most effective crime deterrent in the area, he said. LaGesse said the patrols fall into disuse during the winter months but will resume.
He’s also looking into reinstituting the Neighborhood Watch program in Superior. It’s been about a decade since there was one in the city.
“We haven’t done something like Neighborhood Watch program for many years now and I think the timing’s right,” the police chief said. “We’ve had kind of some high profile crimes happening including these arsons and it might be the right time to do that.”
Anyone interested in being part of their neighborhood’s group can contact Beste at (715) 395-7401.
Those who attended Monday’s meeting planned to keep a watch on their neighborhood, as well.
“A number of us are going to be staying up late, you know, watching,” Ed Montgomery said. “What else can we do?”
Anyone with information is asked to call the Superior Police Department at (715) 395-7652, a tip line at (715) 395-7468, or 911. The department also can be reached on Facebook or the anonymous texting tip line. The text keyword is “spdtip” and can be sent to 847411.