LETTER TO THE EDITOR: LU Alum Defends Police

To The Editor:I have lived in the Valley for many years before returning to college at Lawrence as a “non-traditional” student, and am familiar with the area, including the City of Appleton and its history. As a 1999 grad, I am also familiar with the “hassles” of many of the students, and keep up with campus happenings through copies of The Lawrentian at Conkey’s (although some copies there are older issues). I am responding to David Heyer’s letter to the editor in the April 27th issue.

I can understand David’s frustration with the Appleton police, however their activities are hardly “to harass and annoy.” The history of “the Ave,” as College Avenue has become known over the years, has made the “overabundance of police cars” quite necessary. Their presence has less to do with Lawrence students, and more to do with high-schoolers.

Up until roughly 12 (maybe 15) years ago, Oneida Street flowed straight through downtown Appleton, crossing College Avenue as all the other throughfares did. The Fox River Mall was fairly new, and its retail competition made downtown Appleton nearly a ghost town–retail traffic was nearly nonexistent. A group of investors pooled their money and constructed the Avenue Mall, intending to revitalize the downtown area and bring back retail shopping, particularly for the holidays.

Well, along with the new mall and rerouted traffic, there slowly appeared a new occupant to downtown–the “cruisers.” They would bring their loud cars downtown and cruise “the Ave” all night long. Most of the cruisers were teenagers with nowhere else to go. Cars were often double parked and disrupted traffic. The cruisers brought with them the “hangers”, the groups of kids on the street corners. eventually the hangers brought with them the “bangers” and the “wannabes”, many of whom were not from Appleton at all, and with them came a petty drug trade and incidences of violence. Downtown businesses were vandalized, burglarized, and their businesses badly bruised by this downtown presence.

About seven years ago, the City of Appleton made a concerted effort to clean up the downtown and bring back the night life that had been chased away. This was a joint effort between Appleton youth groups, downtown businesses, churches, neighborhood watches, and yes, the police. A great deal of effort, time and money went into cleaning up the downtown (most of the money generated by – * sigh * – parking tickets). Without this cleanup effort and the procedures that currently exist, the downtown area would be a very unpleasant place to be, as it once was.

I understand David’s anger and need to vent, however there is indeed a great deal of logic behind the downtown situation. He might have given that some thought and used just a little less sarcasm.

Yours Truly,

Leslie Marquardt Vidas
Lawrence Class of 1999

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