City councilman says new challenges have emerged in Ward 3

They’re the many faces of Ward 3.

There is the seemingly forgotten part of Fremont Street, a stone’s throw from the famed LED light shows, where rampant crime — double shootings, stabbings and stranglings — is considered routine by residents of one apartment complex.

A few blocks away rests neighborhood staple Luv-It Frozen Custard, 505 E. Oakey Blvd. It’s the same area that actor Mindy Kaling called one of “the most dangerous and sketchiest” neighborhoods during a late-night television talk show.

Despite the local backlash regarding Kaling’s comments, some residents expressed concerns about walking in that area of the ward near Las Vegas and Oakey boulevards, where “open drug deals and prostitution” have been witnessed.

Then there’s the ever-booming Las Vegas Arts District, where newly opened urban lounges and galleries make a case that the community is looking at the economic downturn in its rear view mirror. But empty commercial buildings dot the area, and the Main Street business corridor continues to rebuild from a substation explosion in the summer of 2010.

Residents also have questioned how city officials will deal with abandoned homes, squatters pirating electricity on those properties, homelessness, vandalism and blight.

They’re different problems for first-term Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, who spent almost 30 years as a state legislator and has lived in the ward since 1951. The neighborhoods were designed decades before he took office when times were different.

“I’m coming in at a tough time,” Coffin said. “It’s changed like me, from black hair to white. The neighborhood has aged.”

Coffin said he’s helping two auto businesses in the 1700 block of Fremont Street that had fallen on hard times reopen soon. He’s hoping to encourage new businesses while helping existing ones stay relevant.

About 95,000 people live in the ward. About 49 percent of the population is Hispanic, while 33 percent is white and 11 percent is black. About 49 percent speak only English at home, while 51 percent speak a language other than English. Immigration has changed the face of constituents.

Las Vegas real estate agent Jack LeVine, who lives in the ward and operates, said the community provides “a unique challenge to the city because it’s one of the older parts and is in dire need of redevelopment and improvement.”

“We know there’s a budget shortfall, but code enforcement is a vital part of the community,” LeVine said. “…These are parts of town absolutely worth saving.”

LeVine, who lives in the Southridge neighborhood off St. Louis Avenue, said crime prevention and crime control need to be priorities.

“Granted, some of the most worst parts of Las Vegas are in Ward 3, but they’re not the neighborhoods I live in,” he said.

The Downtown Area Command investigated 345 crimes in the 89101 and 89104 ZIP codes, according to the Metropolitan Police Department’s online crime statistics from Sept. 1-6 . The majority of those involved assault and battery incidents, family disturbances, drugs and other disturbances.

As for crime in his ward, Coffin said the city needs more police, especially in areas such as Fremont Street.

“This area has been the same for decades,” Coffin said. “It’s a place where people go to buy drugs and pick up a hooker. These kinds of things are gonna happen no matter what you do. You have to make sure that behavior doesn’t migrate out. We don’t have enough cops.”

Neighborhood associations allow neighbors to look out for each other, LeVine added.

“It gives us a mechanism to push the city government for code enforcement and other issues,” LeVine said. “It provides the means of meeting lots of neighbors, knowing people and a sense of community.”

Lance Kirk, president of the West Huntridge Neighborhood Association, said although he has seen improvements to bus stops and sidewalks near Sahara Avenue as part of a partnership project with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, walkability continues to be an issue throughout the ward.

“Between Oakey and Franklin on 11th Street there’s not a sidewalk to be found,” Kirk said. “…There are amenities that we don’t have in the older neighborhoods in relationship to parks, walkways and connections to trails. You go to Summerlin or Green Valley and other outlying developments and you can find these. But when my family and I go on a bike ride, we’re on city streets.”

Kirk suggested renovating abandoned homes into satellite gyms, day cares or meeting spaces to enhance a localized effect for the community, in hopes of deterring crime, squatters and blight.

Contact reporter Kristi Jourdan at kjourdan@review or 455-4519.

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