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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2007

Eyes where you live

WHETHER a Block Watch program could have helped prevent the shooting death of Toledo Det. Keith Dressel is something we'll never know. At that hour, in the middle of the night, probably not.

However, we would have assumed the North End neighborhood where the tragedy occurred - bounded by Bush and Summit streets, I-280, and the Buckeye Basin Greenbelt Parkway - already had Block Watch. We would have been wrong.

Block Watch programs are effective crime-fighting tools because they raise citizen awareness. Existing programs need strengthening, and neighborhoods without them should start one. Citizens in the programs help the police do their jobs by keeping an ear and an eye open for suspicious activity.

City Councilman Joe McNamara understands this; he's been pushing North End residents to become more vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

Having a Block Watch program is one way to reduce crime rates. Unfortunately, the number of such programs in Toledo is dwindling, not growing.

Currently, there are 180 of them, down from 203 a little more than a year ago. It's not as if North Toledoans in the area where Detective Dressel was killed are doing nothing for themselves. Some have set up informal vigilance.

One advantage of a formal block watch program is that police officers attend neighborhood meetings and give residents the latest information about criminal activity in the vicinity.

Block watch programs basically recapture how neighborhoods used to operate. Folks knew all their neighbors' names. They kept an eye on each other's children and property. And people spoke up when they believed their families and homes might be in jeopardy.

We need more of that.

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