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Albertson's loiterers worry neighbors

(ran East, South editions)

The store has cleaned up the parking lot and cut back shrubbery, but neighbors in Crescent Lake and Five Points still believe more could be done to manage transients outside a 24-hour Albertson's at 3700 Fourth St. N.

Robin Reed, president of the Five Points Neighborhood Association, said the subject came up at a recent board meeting. "People were concerned about seeing people sitting in their cars, drinking out of brown paper bags," Reed said. The board voted to recognize the concerns brought up by the Crescent Lake Neighborhood Association as valid. Reed said residents were especially concerned about the lack of outside security by the Albertson's grocery and liquor stores.

Crescent Lake president Clifford Holensworth said he was recently approached by a large man in the parking lot. When Holensworth got into his car and closed the door, the man pounded on his window, Holensworth said.

"I would call it dangerous to any type of person shopping there," he said.

Police were called 119 times to the Albertson's between Jan. 1 and Nov. 7 this year. That is down from 175 calls for the 2001 calendar year. And 27 of those calls were made by the store to arrest shoplifters.

Store manager Jim Mansfield said that in his three weeks on the job, he has removed hedges separating the store from a Taco Bell on the south end of the parking lot. Albertson's media spokesman Walt Rubel said store employees had been told to report suspicious activity in the parking lot to managers. He invited neighbors to do the same.

"We evaluate the need for outdoor security but police ourselves," Rubel said. "We get people to move along either at our request or at the request of police."

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The neighborhood will vote Monday on proposed basketball courts in North Shore Park, following a meandering two-year journey that began with a youth's request to City Council for the courts. The vote of the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association on the issue has no legal standing, but results will be forwarded Tuesday to the mayor's office, said association president Chris Eaton.

The story began in 2000 when Chris Vineyard, then 12, asked the City Council for a place to play basketball with his friends. Since then, the proposal to build two lighted courts at a cost of $90,000 has nearly been taken off the table and will soon come before the council again. Eaton said the proposal had been controversial and that some condominium residents had recently joined Historic Old Northeast to vote against the courts.

"There has been a lot of emotional energy into (the courts) not being here," Eaton said. The meetings starts at 7 p.m. Monday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 126 11th Ave. NE. County Commissioner Ken Welch will also speak.