By Frank Lewis
When Paul Blaine retired from the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office he set a simple goal. “I just wanted to make a difference,” Blaine told his wife. Now he is now Director of Security at Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority (PMHA), which means he has the safety and well-being of some 3,000 residents. Since assuming the position he has begun implementing new programs.
“I would like to get more bonding between the police officers and the tenants so I can get a lot more interaction,” Blaine said. “I am going to set up meetings to where they can actually meet with the police officers and the police officers can tell them what they expect and what to look for in crimes and to try to get some kind of connection.”
Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority operates seven sites in the area, Wayne Hills, Farley Square, Miller Manor, Lett Terrace, Hudson House, Alexandria House and Cliffside House.
“Paul has got some good ideas that he wants to implement,” Helen Adams, PMHA Director of Housing Management, said. “And I think they will be good.”
Adams says she is hopeful that some of the things she has wanted to see happen within the structure of the PMHA will now come to fruition.
“One of the things that we really want is for our residents to trust us,” Adams said. “Paul, being there in security, we want them to, when they see him, they trust him and feel comfortable when they see him out they don’t have a problem going and saying, hey, Mr. Blaine, there is something going on over here in an apartment you need to see. Just for him to build a rapport with our residents so they know we’re here for them. We’re not their enemy.”
Executive Director of the PMHA, Peggy Rice, said one of the misconceptions people have about their family housing units is that when arrests are made that those who are arrested are, in most cases, residents.
“One of the things that we get from our residents, especially with the out-of-towners that come in, they always go to the high poverty areas. That’s where they’re going to set up shop, because that’s where they’re going to feel like they can get by with more than if they were to go to the hilltop,” Rice said. “Our residents have to live there and they are sometimes a little leery of us because we go home at 4:30. We do have a handful of on-site personnel, but by in large at 4:30 we leave and they are stuck with whatever shows up.”
Rice said Blaine has, like his predecessors, Bob Pratt and Hughie Blair, tracks the crime statistics.
“The majority of people who are arrested on our property have no ties to us,” Rice said. “They’re out-of-towners or they are people who are coming from other places looking for the out-of-towners because of what they sell, so our residents are afraid to tell people. They’re afraid to tell what they know and where they see it. So what Paul is hoping to do is get that trust, get that security, get that safety going on between the police and the residents where people are a little more comfortable letting the Drug Task Force, letting the Police Department and the (Scioto County) Sheriff’s Office know what’s going on in their backyard.”
Blaine said he wants the residents to know they can share information with law enforcement without giving their names.
“The whole purpose is to get those teenagers to feel comfortable around the police because, sure, that’s not the cool thing to do, to tell on somebody, so what he is trying to do is to get that rapport to where they know they can tell the officers something and nobody needs to know that you told,” Adams said.
Blaine has already begun the process of bringing everyone together.
“I’m going to start a community meeting maybe next month,” Blaine said. “I want that to be between all the residents and the police department. I want them to come and talk to each other. I want the community to tell the police what they want and I want the police to tell the community what they want so they can come with a common bond together to deter drugs or other crimes.”
On Tuesday PMHA staged its National Night Out event in which members of the police department and the fire department came in and mingled with the residents so they could get to know each other better. There was food, music, inflatables for the kids and even a dunk tank where the kids lined up to put some of the maintenance staff into the water.
“It was for the community to come together,” Blaine said. “That’s why we had police officers giving kids cruiser rides. We were kind of hoping that they (children) would actually see the police officers and safety people are not their enemy. They are actually there to help you not to hurt you.”
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 1928, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.