On Friday, Lansing Police Lt. Larry Klaus reflected back to his second day on the job as a community police officer in Lansing’s Genesee neighborhood. It was 1990, he said, and he had come to the realization that the neighborhood had 14 running crack houses.
Even for an entire police force, it would be a large problem to solve. But Klaus worked his beat, and some 20 years later, the Genesee neighborhood is a much different place.
It’s the work of officers like Klaus — officers both assigned to patrol specific neighborhoods and those who patrol the whole city — that help keep neighborhoods safe. That’s why Klaus was out at the IBEW hall on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday mournfully celebrating the birthday of Ruth Hallman, a longtime Genesee neighborhood activist, and mother of At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood.
Hallman was killed in her home in the summer of 2007, when a serial killer who targeted women gripped the city of Lansing.
The annual birthday party for Hallman is a fundraiser for the Lansing Police problem solving overtime fund. The birthday party and fundraiser was started three years ago and has to date raised $30,000. The fund pays for potential overtime needed for additional officers required in certain neighborhoods.
“Ruth was one of my main allies. She helped organize the neighborhood,” Klaus said. “Thirty years later, the neighborhood is back. This is an example of what can happen in a troubled neighborhood. You can turn it around, and Ruth was a big part of that.”
People from all over the Lansing community participated in the fundraiser not only donating money to the cause but also enjoying food and friends.
“They come into a warm atmosphere and talk with friends they may not have seen in a while,” Wood said. “We have people coming out here throughout the whole day.”
Bill and Susie Barkyoumb came to the event and to support the work of Lansing Police. To them, feeling safe comes with the presence and visibility of community police officers.
“It makes people think twice about committing a crime,” Bill Barkyoumb said. “It’s a deterrent.”
Patti Cook, who helped Wood with her 2009 mayoral campaign and who was volunteering at Friday’s party, agreed.
“Neighborhoods need to see police presence. They feel more comfortable, and when something happens they’ll be more apt to rely on community policing.”
“This is something the community supports, and it’s a nice tribute to [Carol’s] mother,” Cook said. “Today is about common goals and remembering someone who was so passionate about the Lansing community.”