Fighting crime in the North End neighborhood blocks in which Toledo Police Detective Keith Dressel was fatally shot last month may be aided by those who live there.
On March 16, Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara and city-wide Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch Chairman Michael Dearth announced plans to mobilize a new Block Watch chapter for the North End neighborhood known as the “short north,” a section north of Bush Street and south of I-280.
Block Watch chapters rely on residents and city officials to attend meetings to discuss crime and quality of life issues in the neighborhood. The groups meet once a month, four times a year, or “as needed,” depending on the neighborhood, Dearth said.
The short north is an area often called a “dead zone,” Dearth said, because the neighborhood has never had any participation from its residents in the Block Watch program.
“One of the other Block Watches in the area admitted it had never been able to get participation in that area,” Dearth said. “I discussed this with some police officers and we decided the fact that officer Dressel was killed nearby might galvanize the neighborhood to take action.”
But Dearth said Dressel’s death is not the only reason for starting a chapter there, as it is the first of nine neighborhoods currently targeted for new Block Watch programs.
“The actual block where Dressel was killed was slightly outside of the area we had already chosen. We were planning this Block Watch group before that happened,” Dearth said.
McNamara said all neighborhoods benefit from the establishment of a Block Watch chapter.
“Studies show when neighbors know each other it reduces crime and vandalism,” McNamara said.
“I don’t personally believe there are enough officers on the street, so we need to be innovative in using every resource we have, and that includes getting citizens involved in Block Watch.”
One resource McNamara devised with the help of Jane Mullikin, a Block Watch area leader for Library Village in the West End, was to use automated calls to reach citizens with a recorded message that announces meeting times and locations.
“He asked me if I thought automated calling would be a good idea, and I said sure,” she said.
McNamara said he purchased automated calls during his political campaign but had not used all of them and would donate the remaining calls to Block Watch. Voter files listing residents’ contact information could help direct where calls are placed.
“It shows a lot of initiative on Councilman McNamara’s part,” Mullikin said. “They can reach area voters from voters’ lists and later they can begin to deviate from those lists.”
McNamara said he hopes the technology will help the creation of the new Block Watch group go smoothly.
“This is an experiment,” he said. “But we’re hoping and praying it works.”
Block Watch debuts on East Side
Block Watch 422A will sponsor its first meeting at 7 p.m. April 14 at the Memorial United Church of Christ, 1301 Starr Ave. at the corner of Plymouth Street. This Block Watch covers the Raymer Elementary School Area from Starr Avenue north to Navarre Avenue, and from East Broadway east to the railroad tracks, near Howland Street. For more information, call (419) 936-2064.