/ Changing the Conversations

Walk 8-26-2018

Dan Benavidez

Once again, we visited this neighborhood which we had visited about 2 years ago. And Oh my! After this walk as with other walks in neighborhoods we have revisited I came to fully realize once again how great and needed these neighborhood walks are! Chief Mike Butler was and is so very right on with our neighborhood walks!  That it is for sure that most people in these neighborhoods or for that matter most of Longmont neighborhoods do not go to public meetings or gatherings. So here is the Chief of Public Safety Mike Butler, right down in their predominately Latino Barrio (neighborhood) meeting with them, sharing with them with them asking how is it going? Have you been discriminated against? Have you had an encounter with the Police? Do you like l living in Longmont! And Oh, my ALL that is ALL love living here in Longmont! Speak about Diversity and a caring city LONGMONT is that in spades.

And I felt so good interpreting for Chief Butler to many whom we met who spoke little English and have lived here in Longmont for decades. And How cool it was when we met the young man with tattoos all over his Bod and who admittedly was a gangbanger in Los Angeles and who moved to Longmont and loves it here and who is now a straight arrow and volunteered to meet (as did many others) and help Chief Butler in the many Angel like programs in the city. And how sad yet I felt we gave if nothing else a morale booster to the 4 young ones we met sitting on the curb and the young lady sitting with them who is homeless and says she has been homeless for most of the past 15 years. Here again Mike said let me see if I can help you. BTW Mike gives his personal business card to all we meet!

Thank you so very much Macie May Editor in Chief of the Longmont Observer who walked with us let’s do it again!

Mike’s Perspective

Follow up from last week. There is a comprehensive and coordinated effort by public safety to address the concerns expressed to us from our previous Sunday’s walk. We remember another large apartment complex where similar issues were occurring. At one point in that complex, police were receiving 100 calls for service per month and we would not send less than two police officers when we did receive a call. Long story short, we were able to partner with the residents and management to reduce the call load to about five per month. So, we expect similar results after our work is completed in last weeks neighborhood.

This last Sunday, Longmont Observer Editor, Macie May walked with us. The Longmont Observer is an on-line local community news media outlet. They have agreed to publish the weekly report that Dan distributes - Thank you Longmont Observer. We are grateful, Macie, that you took time out of your Sunday morning to walk with us.

We walked a previously visited neighborhood on the East side of Longmont. This particular neighborhood, for a while, received extra attention by our police services division. And that extra attention seems to have paid off as almost everyone told us they felt safe, their kids were safe and one person said she does not lock her car at night because she believes her car is safe. That is in contrast to what we heard two years ago from this neighborhood. At that time we heard of hypodermic needles, drug activity, car break-ins, numerous disturbances and rowdy neighbors. This time, the biggest issue we heard was about too many cars parked on the street.

To repeat what I have mentioned in previous reports, when Dan and I visit a neighborhood that is in “distress”, that information is leveraged to allocate temporary public safety or other specific resources for that neighborhood. Out of the 170 plus walks, we believe that has happened less than five times.

Macie May Editor in Chief of the Longmont Observer

On Sunday morning I had the opportunity and the honor of joining Chief Butler and Dan Benavidez on their Belonging Revolution walk. I have been reading and publishing the weekly Belonging Revolution updates for a few weeks now and thought I had a good grasp of what I had signed up for, I was wrong. I had no idea the impact something so simple as a walk could have on a few strangers going about their business on a Sunday morning, let alone how it impacted me. 

Last Sunday, we walked down one street and met several people. Among them were Nathan, Jake, and Melissa. These three were simply enjoying the shade when we approached. Melissa talked about the effects homelessness has had on her life. When Chief Butler asked her if she would be willing to work if he could help, she jumped at the chance. Nathan seemed inspired to participate in more community conversations on the topic of homelessness to the point that he approached us again shortly after with suggestions. 

As we walked down the street we met with Alejandro and Maria. They were out trying to fix their car. Chief Bulter offered some suggestions but Alejandro had tried several of them already. He and Maria then spoke of an incident with the police in the past that left them with a negative view. After some time speaking with Chief Butler, Alejandro and Maria continued to share about their family. We parted ways with smiles and waves.

Down the street, Ebelia was having a yard sale and Dahlia and Cesar were shopping. Ebelia is taking English classes so that she can better understand the people she meets. By the end of our conversation, she was willing to allow Chief Butler to call upon her to speak on the behalf of or to the Latino community in community conversations. 

The thing that moved me the most was the way people noticeably changed during the course of our conversations. As we approached, many seemed uneasy. However, Dan's friendly smile and joyful hola draws people in right away. The first thing Chief Butler wanted everyone to know was that Longmont Public Safety (LPS) is here to serve the community and that if any individual needs the assistance of LPS, he personally wants to invite them to contact LPS without fear. This is the moment when everyone changed from being nervous that the Public Safety Chief had approached them to being willing to share their stories. It was incredible to see these people go from being guarded to being open to sharing. This was just the first step in Dan and Chief Butler's plan to make sure the people of Longmont feel as though they belong and are welcomed in our community. By the end, Chief Butler walked away from with a list of community members willing contribute and to help promote the idea of belonging in Longmont.

I would like to thank Dan and Chief Butler inviting me to share in this wonderful opportunity. I plan on joining them again in the future. I would also like to thank each of the people we met on Sunday for sharing their stories with us. I learned so much about this small portion of our community and the challenges they face simply by walking down one street in Longmont and listening. And to think that all of this started with a simple hello, or in Dan's case, a friendly hola.