There is a correlation between the appearance of a neighborhood and the amount of respect that a neighborhood is given. A neighborhood that is old, decrepit, and falling apart is more likely to have a higher crime rate than one that is kept nicer. Reasons for neighborhoods to become old and decrease the neighborhood value are usually financial. A community of wealthy people pays higher taxes which allow the city to budget for neighborhood upkeep. There is also the issue of a neighborhood that is mostly rentals, such as South Side St. Cloud. Rental homes have tenants who are not responsible for the property, or the upkeep of the property. South side St. Cloud, in this essay is considered to be everything east of the Mississippi River up to Lake George, and between Highway 23 and University Drive South.
St. Cloud State University’s campus is conveniently located in an area that has a large neighborhood of off campus student housing. These are homes and apartments that are rented out to people though land lords instead of being university owned. Many students of St. Cloud State University choose to move off campus after their first year of college and into a rental house or apartment nearby. This is an area of high crime that also has a high sense of community. Without having to know exactly who you are living near you can make assumptions about who they are. Probably a student of St. Cloud State University or the St. Cloud Technical School, most likely between the ages of 18-25, and most likely with an annual income of less than $20,000. These factors are not absolutely accurate, because there are people who are not students, are older and younger than the 18- 25 span, and make more than $20,000. This general picture of a community does not fit within the description of a wealthy tax payer neighborhood. Students have pride in the school they go to. Clothing, glasses, blankets, and all other things are themed for St. Cloud State University and are sold in stores targeted to students. They also should be proud of where they live in St. Cloud. To feel unsafe walking at night in your college neighborhood is unsettling. A neighborhood with students in mind should be a safe place where you do not need to worry about if your property outside is getting vandalized or what that popping sound from a few blocks away is. Having sirens audible throughout the night does not sound like an area of college students. Crime in this neighborhood comes from altered states of mind from intoxicated students as well as sober non-student residents. There have been fires, muggings, deaths, robberies, destruction of property, and things as small as littering that contribute to the disrespect and destruction of the neighborhood.
Most of the homes in South Side St. Cloud are either rental homes or apartments. The leases tend to be twelve months starting June first and ending around May 25th. There is about a week or less where the property is completely emptied for the land lord to come in and make improvements or clean. Rental homes have tenants who are not responsible for the property, or the upkeep of the property. If a land lord does not fix an issue or maintain the yard in a timely matter it sends a message to the renters that it is not of high value and importance to the city. Or possibly the renters do not respect the property and do not report it to the land lord and the problem goes unfixed. Either situation leads to a lowered value of the home. With multiple rental properties lacking the care necessary to keep intact an entire block can begin to look decayed. If multiple blocks are appearing to be neglected then the neighborhood looks bad. There are few houses that are obviously abandoned in the area that are simply eye sores. These houses could be demolished and rebuilt to be put back into use. We can take a look at other neighborhoods that are built in a similar fashion of blocks of streets and avenues that go through neglect and there is a higher crime rate. Neighborhoods such as Near-North, Folwell, Jordan, Willard-Hay, and Hawthrone in Minneapolis have high crime rates (Neighborhood Crime Statistics 2013). They are residential areas set up similarly to St. Cloud and have rental homes priced for lower income residents similarly to South Side St. Cloud (Zillow Minneapolis Homes for Sale 2013). Many houses in these neighborhoods share qualities with those in South Side like closed off porches, small lawns, trash around in the streets, and also broken windows and doors. Many areas of Minneapolis have gone through gentrification, the process of taking an old or poor neighborhood and changing it into an area desirable for wealthier residents. Gentrification improves the quality of a neighborhood, but it creates tax increases displacing the original poor residents of the area. Many people who live in areas going through gentrification are unhappy with the changes being made to their neighborhood (North MPLS Culture 2013). There is a way to go about improving a neighborhood without destroying its character. It is taking responsibility for the community in which you are a part of. The declination of South Side’s appearance can be stopped with the cooperation of landlords, residents, and the city of St. Cloud. There are many ways in which the community could be upgraded. If mutual respect is given from land lords and renters for the property is ascertained with possibly a campaign to reclaim the beauty of South Side from the city of St. Cloud a general sense of respect for the neighborhood will appear.
In the 2012-2013 St. Cloud State University school year there have been deaths, multiple robberies at gun point, rapes, destruction to cars parked on public roads, and muggings of people that I know personally all located in South Side St. Cloud area. Some students believe that the St. Cloud police force is more interested in busting parties and collecting the money made from minors than they do about the actual protection of the South Side neighborhood. This is a biased statement, but an accurate depiction of the feelings of many South Side student residents. The issues seem different when they are less personal, but they are still intense events affecting everyone in the community. Innocent people, such as Colton Gleason who was punched in the head fell to the ground and died because of the injuries. His attacker was a random boy only 17 years old who did not know Colton, and had no connection to him. The 17 year old did not attend school at St. Cloud State University and neither did Colton. So why did these two people come to such a terrible fate? It was not something that suddenly appeared. This situation probably would not have happened in a different neighborhood in St. Cloud. So what are the factors of the South Side neighborhood that attract this kind of behavior? South Side St. Cloud’s lack of respect from its residents brings events like this. South Side also has a lack of respect from the city of St. Cloud. It is the lowest income area in St. Cloud and the residents of the neighborhood usually go overlooked for community projects. The lack of respect from the city of St. Cloud has its effect on the South Side residents’ respect for their own neighborhood. If the city does not care about this neighborhood, then residents’ respect for their neighborhood declines. In cities that look nicer, have a healthy environments and wealthier residents the city is given more respect.
In 2011, the city of St. Cloud, with a population of 66,350, had 45 robberies, 129 aggravated assaults, 2,587 property crimes, 431 burglaries, 2,040 larceny thefts, and 107 motor vehicle thefts (Uniform Crime Alerts 2011). If we take this and compare it to a city like Minnetonka, Minnesota with a population of 50,118, similar to St. Cloud’s population, in the year 2011 there were 11 robberies, 13 aggravated assaults, 910 property crimes, 154 burglaries, 725 larceny thefts, and 31 motor vehicle thefts (Uniform Crime Alerts 2011). The comparison of aggravated assaults between St. Cloud and Minnetonka shows St. Cloud to be almost ten times larger than Minnetonka’s. The city of Minnetonka is made up of wealthier citizens than that of St. Cloud; with a median household income of $80,121, and St. Cloud’s being $35,868. (Minnetonka, Minnesota 2012) (St. Cloud, Minnesota 2012).Minnetonka has neighborhoods that are well kept by the city. There are many city ordinances that prevent the residents from doing certain things like parking their car on the lawn or having too many cars on a driveway. There are many more ordinances that are meant to keep eye sores out of the city. It is known for having a lot of trees and being an environmentally conscious city. There is so much greenery that it seems as if you are in the woods. Neighborhoods are long and twisted with signs of urban sprawl. The residents of the city show it respect by not littering. There are more single family homes that are owned than there are rentals. It does not have the same renter/land lord issue as St. Cloud. Minnetonka is a clean successful city where the residents are wealthy and the environment is healthy.
The neighborhood and community of South Side St. Cloud is not lost yet. There is still heart in this area; people who are trying to protect the residents from unjust land lords, people who are willing to make a change for the better in their community. Perhaps South Side could be improved if there was more light on the blocks. If the city could persuade land lords to install lights on the front of houses to help illuminate the streets by making it tax deductible or going as far as a city ordinance. It could be as simple as raising awareness to not only the residents of South Side, but the land lords who own the houses. If a realization of what is occurring in the community becomes apparent to everyone an opportunity for change becomes available. What if everyone in the city of St. Cloud was alerted to the declining safety and appearance of South Side St. Cloud? Could then a change be made? How much would it take to bring this neighborhood up to its potential? Many of the houses here are a hundred years old. This is a neighborhood of history. It has not always been the crime filled, personal trash can, and dumpy house neighborhood it is today. South Side St. Cloud simply needs to gain its respect back.