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Published: Wednesday, 6/11/2008

2 East Toledoans eye even better Block Watch

Jackie Kropaczewski, left, and Robin Sopko find crime down in their neighborhood, but seek to locate more neighbors ready to note problems and to report them to 911. Jackie Kropaczewski, left, and Robin Sopko find crime down in their neighborhood, but seek to locate more neighbors ready to note problems and to report them to 911.

When Robin Sopko began to notice problems with drugs and prostitutes in a rental property across the street from her home on Raymer Boulevard, she knew she needed to do something to make her neighborhood safer.

"Instead of complaining, I decided to do something about it," she said.

Ms. Sopko and the Block Watch she leads with Jackie Kropaczewski have seen a decrease in crime since they started hosting monthly meetings in 2006.

Ms. Sopko took over in the spring of that year after Jeff Iffland, the Block Watch's former leader, left the position. Ms. Sopko was joined by Ms. Kropaczewski, who became her co-leader, one year later.

The two divide their duties equally: Ms. Sopko is in charge of sending e-mails, and Ms. Kropaczewski calls the neighborhood's residents and encourages them to attend the meetings.

"Jackie likes to talk, I like to type," Ms. Sopko said with a laugh.

Ms. Sopko was born and raised in East Toledo. After an eight-year stint in Florida, she decided to return home.

Officer Tom Davis, the community service officer for East Toledo, attends Ms. Sopko's Block Watch meetings each month. He said that he has noticed significant differences since Ms. Sopko's Block Watch meetings began.

"A lot of times, people are reluctant to call the police. They don't want to get involved or think they're bothering us," he said.

Mr. Davis said the meetings make people more comfortable with the police and encourage them to call more frequently, which leads to a stronger police presence in the area.

"We're in the neighborhoods more, and that is a deterrent to crime in general," he said.

Ms. Sopko said that she hopes the event will encourage younger people to attend, the meetings, which generally attract about 12 people, most of whom are senior citizens.

"People feel like they can't come if they have children. They're too busy, or maybe we have it on a bad night," said Ms. Sopko.

To target younger residents in the neighborhood, Ms. Sopko is hosting a Block Watch event at 2 p.m. Saturday in Burnett Park.

Officer Davis and his partner, Officer Sue Surgo, typically attend meetings, but are off-duty Saturday and will not attend.

The open house will offer coloring books and a fire truck to entertain children. The meeting is expected to last an hour. Following the meeting, Larry Michaels, vice president of the East Toledo Historical Society, will lead a walk to view historical homes in the area.

Ms. Kropaczewski said that Block Watch is crucial.

"It's important for everyone to help each other. The police can't be everywhere, and if we see something suspicious, we can call 911 and let the police know," she said.

The Block Watch meetings take place on the second Thursday of each month at Memorial United Church of Christ, 1301 Starr Ave.

Contact Meredith Byers at: mbyers@theblade.com

or 419-724-6101.

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