POCATELLO — The apartments Anne and Terrel Merkley own near Idaho State University were once a hub of campus life, housing mostly students.
Nowadays, all but a couple of students have left for newer apartments elsewhere and the Merkleys worry crime has supplanted the campus culture. The Merkleys say they’ve experienced recent break-ins of occupied apartment units in a building they own at 1153 S. Fourth Ave. in Pocatello. Furthermore, they’re concerned about drugs in the neighborhood and vehicles speeding through the residential streets.
Anne Merkley said she plans to circulate a petition throughout the neighborhood to bring concerns about problems surrounding the corner of South Fourth Avenue and East Humboldt Street to the attention of police.
“There’s a 35 mph sign half a block down from this corner. Half the cars hit the accelerator on this corner, and even before they’re going 45 to 50 mph from here on out,” Anne Merkley said. “I was going to post my own slow-down sign.”
On Oct. 7, a hit-and-run crash knocked a resident’s car, which was parked near the entrance of the Merkleys’ Fourth Avenue apartment building, into the front porch, damaging landscaping, a fence and supportive pillars.
During the summer, their tenants dealt with separate break-ins that occurred while they were home, police records confirm. The first break-in took place in July, when a woman who lived alone in a unit came out of her shower to find a man she didn’t know sitting on her couch. He claimed it was a misunderstanding and wasn’t charged with a crime, police said.
In August, an intoxicated man kicked in an apartment door and crawled inside, surprising a different woman who lived alone in one of the Merkleys’ units, police said. In connection with that incident, Keenin Peterson, 41, has been cited with misdemeanor malicious injury to property. His case has not yet been adjudicated. Anne Merkley said the resident no longer feels safe in her own apartment.
The Merkleys own 16 apartment units in the area including the seven-unit building on Fourth Avenue, a pair of duplexes, a three-plex building and a house.
A couple of months ago, she said she also worked to get alleged methamphetamine dealers removed from an apartment across the street. She said she also evicted a tenant who was tied to drug activity.
The Merkleys’ daughter, Krishna Strong, said the incidents have been stressful to her parents, who are older and do considerable upkeep to keep their properties looking nice.
“The neighborhood around ISU has turned into this drug-ridden, unsafe place,” Strong said, referring to the western neighborhood adjacent to campus. “It was a beautiful neighborhood. It was safe. I don’t know what’s happened.”
To heighten its presence in the campus area, the Pocatello Police Department opened a 500-square-foot substation in November 2020 at the Portneuf health Trust’s Bannock Campus, 500 S. 11th Ave. The department also has a substation next to Fred Meyer at 800 Yellowstone Ave.