Monday, May 21, 2018
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Police & Fire

Authorities canvass gang neighborhood

Proactive policing in Toledo aimed at stopping violence


Angela Self talks to Dave Dustin, an FBI special agent, and Officer Melvin Haney of the Toledo Police Gang Unit at her home on Fernwood Avenue during their canvassing of the neighborhood.

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Police are no stranger to the Smith Park neighborhood, and the residents who live there are used to seeing officers out in force.

Monday was different.

Officers from various local, state, and federal agencies walked through the area, bounded by Grosebeck and Dorr streets and Hoag and Norwood avenues, knocking on every door.

Proactive policing.

“We don’t want to wait [for summer] to be reactive,” Toledo police Sgt. Anita Madison said during a briefing before the canvassing.

At each residence, the officers and community members, all part of the year-old Toledo Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, were to tell residents they want to ensure their safety and, together, combat crime.

“We’ve tried everything else, so why not try this?” police Lt. Randy Pepitone asked.

The initiative, launched last year, is a cooperative agreement between various law enforcement agencies, service providers, and the community. Each branch of the initiative has a role to play in reducing gang violence; the message to gangs from each is simple: Stop shooting.

If shootings persist, police promise an investigation into the gang and charges against its members. Should any of the gang members want out of the lifestyle, they are referred to various services — job training, education, health services. The community component is meant to be the “moral voice."

The area canvassed Monday is claimed territory by Lil Heads, Bloods, and is prone to gangs, guns, and drugs.

In the 1000 block of Fernwood Avenue, only scraps of a utility-pole memorial are left in remembrance of Justin Smith, a Lil Heads gang leader who was shot to death in October, 2011.

Across the street is a vacant lot where the gang’s hangout used to be — it was burned to the ground last year.

The push in the Smith Park area is a continuation of an effort that police first made public in August when they announced criminal gang charges against members of the Lil Heads.

Those charges have since been dismissed, but police said they want to do more in the area.

Angela Self, 37, has lived in the area her entire life and said she was glad to see the police in the neighborhood.

“It was great,” she said. “I loved it. We need it around here.”

Last summer, a man was shooting near her Fernwood home. There were children outside.

Unacceptable to her.

She said she gave the man’s full description to the police. She’s not afraid.

She will not be intimidated.

“My kids mean more to me than anything,” she said.

More people need to step up the way Ms. Self has, police said.

The community has to be a critical component in curbing gang violence in the community, police said.

After about an hour of canvassing, walking over broken glass, past boarded up houses, and saying “hello” to people walking by, police started to clear the scene.

“It’s good that the community can see what we’re trying to do," said Leslie Robinson, one of the community representatives.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at:,

419-724-6054, or on

Twitter @taylordungjen.

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