In the Press

Providence needs to address quality of life crimes (Op-Ed, Providence Journal)

Paolino Properties’ Managing Partner, Joseph R. Paolino, Jr., was featured in a recent op-ed published in The Providence Journal about addressing quality of life crimes in Providence.

Read the story below:

Joseph R. Paolino Jr. is managing partner of Paolino Properties, served as mayor of Providence from 1984-1991 and was director of the Rhode Island Department of Economic Development from 1991-1994.

Today, politics has become polarizing. We used to be a country where Republicans and Democrats could sit down and try and fix our problems together. But now we appear to be in the midst of a civil war where the extreme left is asking to defund the police, the extreme right is defending automatic weapons as a constitutional right and the middle is being drowned out. The lunacy we are witnessing is playing out like a bad movie.

I say this because we are facing major problems in our own backyard. Quality of life crimes such as panhandling on exit ramps, homeless people sleeping on sidewalks, ATV’s speeding through our neighborhoods, motorcycles revving their engines, and music being blasted from convertibles are deteriorating Providence. While I was mayor of Providence or today as a businessman, I have always tried to make things better for the city. When you hear me speak out like this, it’s because I care deeply about making Providence a better place to live, work and enjoy.

I often speak out about the problems in downtown, particularly Kennedy Plaza, and critics have said, “he’s just a rich guy who wants to protect his properties and doesn’t care about the homeless.” And they’re wrong when they say I don’t care. I ask, why does a person have to sleep on the steps of City Hall instead of in a bed? Why does a person have to beg for money on the sidewalk? Why can’t they get the addiction treatment they need? When I speak out about these issues, it’s because I care and am disappointed in our elected officials who seem to ignore them or hope they go away.

Last week I received an email from a friend who has a 37-year-old female cousin visiting from Italy for the next three months. She is unable to afford a car and relies on public transportation. Here is what she had to say about her first experience with public transportation in Providence:

“At 8 a.m. I was at the bus stop on Branch Avenue and a man stopped in his car and wanted to give me a ride. He said he didn’t want to leave me alone and I had to tell him that I was calling the police just so he would go away. Then the bus arrived and it was full of people who seemed to have come out of prison. I got off at Kennedy Plaza where I had to wait for 30 minutes to catch another bus. There is not a single corner of Kennedy Plaza that can be considered safe. There are drug addicts, drunks and homeless people everywhere. It’s shabby.

“While I was waiting for the second bus a junkie started harassing me. He came closer and closer to me shouting. People around me did not care. Nobody tried to help me. I was scared and ran away and called an Uber. It was a bad experience and I felt in danger. I don’t think I will take a bus again. Everyone told me that I was crazy to take the bus and it is actually not possible to do it here. I have to find an alternative to be able to move. I did not sleep all night.”

Reading that broke my heart. I am disappointed elected officials are not talking about quality-of-life crimes. Providence needs to change direction. People should have beds to sleep in, job training to get them back on their feet and drug and alcohol treatment to keep them clean. When they succeed, we all succeed.

I call upon the Providence Chamber of Commerce, Providence Tourism Council, The Providence Foundation, our universities, and other leading businesses and non-profits to start speaking out. Because when we stay silent, the perception is we’re condoning these problems. These problems can’t be condoned and we must speak out. This stuff is not complicated to fix.

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