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Published: Friday, 6/8/2012

Plan to sell police station in W. Toledo draws fire

BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A plan to sell the Toledo Police Department's Northwest District Station in West Toledo has met with strong opposition from nearby neighbors who fear it will leave their community more susceptible to crime.

The city wants to sell the police station on Sylvania Avenue to an investment company for $270,000 and relocate operations based there to the department's main locations in Scott Park and downtown.

City officials say the relocation won't make any difference to how West Toledo is policed. Patrols moved out of the Northwest District Station in 2008 and have since been dispatched from the Scott Park station.

The remaining units to be removed -- a special victims unit, a domestic violence unit, and a community services officer -- total just nine staff members and are not involved in patrolling the surrounding neighborhood, officials said. Neither are two Lucas County operations housed there: an electronic monitoring office that checks on people released on parole and a team that provides support to victims of violence.

"In reality we're not changing the way we dispatch officers," Deputy Chief Diana Ruiz-Krause said. Officers "will still be dispatched as they have since 2008, from Scott Park."

But residents and merchants in the area, some of whom spoke before Toledo City Council at a public meeting Thursday, vigorously object to the proposed sale.

They said the station's mere presence on Sylvania, even if officers aren't dispatched from there, is a deterrent to would-be criminals.

The station also gives neighbors a feeling of safety, opponents said.

"Closing that building's going to have a negative effect," said Jim Shrader, owner of Shrader Tire and Oil, who said he fears increasing burglaries in the area.

Mr. Shrader said the police station gives residents and businesses a feeling of confidence in the neighborhood and doing away with it could discourage people and companies from staying there, causing the area to deteriorate.

"I would like to see the sale stopped," he said. "I believe that building is worth a lot more to the city of Toledo than $270,000."

John Bibish, a West Toledo resident who is a former city finance official, said people in his district should be getting more police presence, not less. Residents in West Toledo's District 5 pay more property and income taxes than anywhere else in the city, he said, and deserve to have their safety concerns adequately addressed.

"People feel safer in West Toledo because of that police building," he said. "We want to be served in West Toledo with that station, or something similar."

Deputy Mayor Tom Crothers said selling the station fits into the city's goal to get rid of unnecessary real estate. The station building was originally appraised at $540,000, but Mr. Crothers said the city had to lower the price because of the lagging real estate market.

"We believe that [$270,000] is a fair and reasonable amount," he said.

The investors, Global Direct Invest LLC, want to turn the building into a technical or vocational school, officials said.

A real estate agent representing the company did not return calls requesting more details Thursday.

Councilman Tom Waniewski, who represents District 5, said he feels the area is more in need of increased police patrols than a station.

However, after hearing testimony from residents, he said he is undecided on whether he will support the sale.

Councilman Rob Ludeman suggested the city look into retaining a police presence in a portion of the building. City officials said they would examine the matter.

The proposed sale is expected to undergo further discussion by council at its regularly scheduled agenda review meeting Tuesday.

Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at cbarrett@theblade.com or 419-724-6272.



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