Whose neighborhood is it?

Closed venetian blinds with an orange glow cast outside.
New neighbors in Northeast Park Hill are congregating on next-door.com, but are they building relationships with the people who've lived in the neighborhood a long time.

Who heard gunshots a little after 11 p.m. last night?

This post, on nextdoor.com, was written in late April by a resident of Northeast Park Hill, a historically middle-class, African-American Denver neighborhood with sprawling lawns and blocks and blocks of brick ranch houses. Like most of the neighborhood’s participants on Nextdoor, she has only lived in the neighborhood for a short time – in her case, around a year.

I heard a volley of 21 shots.

Nextdoor is a San Francisco-based social media site designed to welcome newcomers to neighborhoods and build stronger community bonds.

The gunshots woke me up. My husband heard about 22 shots – possible crossfire. Anyone else considering moving with all this heating up?

The idea behind the website is to help neighbors organize neighborhood stuff like barbecues and yard sales. Local business owners could offer up services. Proud parents could promote their daughters’ Girl Scout cookies sales. And, without stepping outside, neighbors could chat online, sharing information about, say, sprinkler-head thefts or that new family down the street who painted its house yellow.

Yes. I’m considering moving. Plain and simple. My house was robbed. My car was stolen. I hear gunshots every night. Property is being covered in graffiti left and right. We heard shots this evening too.

Property values in Northeast Park Hill have shot up over the last few years. The average home price has climbed from $125,000 in 2010 to $245,000 in 2015, according to Zillow.

Kids play tag and race up and down manicured lawns as retirees keep each other company on their porches.

But all too increasingly, shots shatter the calm. Police lights flash. Neighbors stand around gawking at the latest neighborhood trauma. Was it a gang shooting? A cop shooting? Or a domestic violence squabble? Maybe a mix of all three?

Crime and gunshots have become a regular occurrence in the neighborhood.

African-American families who’ve lived here for decades remember when many white people were skittish about Northeast Park Hill. Now, the old-timers comment on the number of white folks who’ve been moving in, popping the tops of their houses, walking their purebred dogs, and digging up their lawns for front-yard gardens and backyard chickens — all the while calling the police when something feels out of place.

We have to demand that the police we pay heighten patrols and serve and protect us.

On Nextdoor, it’s clear that tensions have heightened. The newcomers are debating whether to flee.

I don’t want to be the proverbial ambulance chaser, but I am a real estate agent living in the area. My wife and I heard five or six shots near our place around 2:30 a.m. We know what you’re going through and would like to offer a discounted rate for anyone moving from the area.

This real estate agent does not live in the neighborhood. But she does business here. And business is booming.

Moving is not the answer. We have to stand united as a community. We have to be strong. This is our neighborhood. We need to get rid of the filth! Don’t give power to the few idiots who ruin it all. We cannot allow this in ANY neighborhood! Moving sends a passive message of acceptance.

For decades, neighbors fought to keep grocery stores and businesses in the neighborhood. Dahlia Square and Holly Square were two nationally renowned centers of African-American retail. Old-timers remember the roller-skating rink, McDonalds and barber shops fondly.

In the 1970s, the neighborhood hit hard economic times. By the 80s, gangs had formed and businesses began shuttering their windows. Now, many old neighborhood bonds forged at Dahlia and Holly Squares have been severed as the old neighbors have had to move to more affordable homes in the suburbs, and new neighbors — whose parents and grandparents generally preferred suburbs — have opted for city life and logged onto Nextdoor to build a unified social network.

We cannot let a few thugs hold everyone hostage. This all seems to be associated with the unrest in the country. We need to all attend police meetings and organize a neighborhood watch. We have to demand that our city councilman takes action. To quietly move away is what the thugs want. Your neighbors stand with you.

Cops, too, have found a home on Nextdoor. Officer Reyes Trujillo of the Denver Police Department has been posting in the aftermath of two homicides in Park Hill over the past few months. One victim was killed by gang violence and the other by police.

“As the weather becomes warmer, more neighbors, friends, and community members are outside enjoying the days and evenings. This is the time to watch for suspicious people walking through your neighborhood. Suspicious behavior includes knocking on doors, checking for open windows, and attempting or entering the backyard through a gate. This list is not inclusive, other behaviors may appear suspicious.

“If you see someone that is going from house to house, knocking on doors or any other behavior that just does not fit, CALL THE POLICE,” Trujillo writes. “Give the best description as possible and direction they are going. DO NOT CONFRONT THEM. We do not want anyone hurt. We want your assistance.


The question everybody seems to be asking is: Whose neighborhood is it?


Photo credit: Andy Melton, Creative Commons, Flickr


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