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--- Issued December 3, 2010

HOT OFF THE PRESSES of the Erie Daily Times: Erie Housing Authority to Release Results about Safety, Services

See also HACE Fall News & Views 2010 Newsletter)

The Erie Housing Authority will soon find out how its residents feel about crime, safety and services in their neighborhoods.

The results of the authority's annual "Resident Safety & Services" survey are being tabulated now and are expected to be available by the authority's Dec. 27 board meeting, Executive Director John Horan said.

KeyStone Research Corp. of Erie sent the survey to residents who have lived in public housing for at least six months -- 1,746 surveys in all -- in September.

Horan said he hopes the results are positive and help erase some stereotypes about public housing.

"If someone had the ability to do this type of survey citywide, we would see, in fact, that the perception of the people who live in public housing (is that their neighborhoods) are as safe or safer than any other neighborhood in the city of Erie," he said.

Residents were asked how often they feel safe alone at night in their home, how often they feel safe alone during the daytime in parking areas of the building, and how often they feel safe at night walking in their neighborhood, among other questions.

The survey also asked residents to rank the seriousness of crime, vandalism, drug dealing and other issues in their neighborhood, and about their knowledge of various Housing Authority programs.

It's a way for residents to voice their concerns and offer suggestions for improvement, authority Chairwoman Agnes Priscaro said.

"It helps us learn ... issues we need to be aware of," Priscaro said.

The authority will use the answers to inform how it addresses crime and safety issues and to make changes to programs, if necessary, Horan said.

"Perhaps we need to do a better job of communicating the services that are available, or perhaps we need to not provide one service and think about providing something else, going in a different direction," he said. "It's a constant evaluation process we go through to see what's working, what's not working."

The authority also compares the answers about crime and safety with hard data from the Erie Bureau of Police, he said.

"A lot of the time, perception becomes reality," Horan said. "Even though there might not be high incidence of criminal activity in neighborhood, if people are fearful of that for some reason or another, that becomes their reality."

Perceptions were positive in 2009: That year's survey, conducted by Penn State Behrend, found 83 percent housing residents living in family developments feel safe alone in their homes at night, and 88 percent feel safe during the day, walking alone in their neighborhoods.

ERICA ERWIN can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail.

JOHN HORAN can be reached at 452-2425.