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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 4/30/2013

BATTLE LINES: GANGS OF TOLEDO

Blade suit tries to pry gang map from city

Bell administration claims document is being used in police investigations

BLADE STAFF

In July, The Blade’s request for a copy of the city’s map that shows gang boundaries was denied, prompting a lawsuit by the newspaper and a months-long court battle.

The map, according to testimony from Detective Bill Noon, a member of the Toledo Police Department gang unit, only shows territory believed to be claimed by various gangs.

The map does not show where police believe drugs and guns are sold and stashed, or even if police know such a house exists in a certain territory.

Through the city’s law director, Adam Loukx, city officials declined to release the map because the map was created to investigate crimes.

Citing the pending lawsuit, filed in the 6th District Court of Appeals, Mr. Loukx, through city spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei, declined last week to comment further on the map.

Two candidates running against incumbent Mike Bell in the Toledo mayoral race were asked that if they were to become mayor, would they release the gang map.

Joe McNamara, a city councilman, initially declined to comment, citing the pending litigation, but later said: “If I were mayor, as long as releasing this information wouldn't put someone at risk, I would release it.”

Anita Lopez, Lucas County auditor, also said the map should be released to the public.

“It’s public information and it deals directly with public safety,” she said. “The citizens and businesses have a right to know what is happening in our city.”

For Ms. Lopez, releasing the map is more personal. A man hired by the auditor's office during the county's property revaluation process was photographing houses in North Toledo when his vehicle was surrounded by a group of males, described by Ms. Lopez as a gang.

The man told police that the males threatened to shoot the man's vehicle and another showed him a gun.

Days prior to publication, former Mayors Carty Finkbeiner and Jack Ford were shown the map.

Mr. Finkbeiner said there were about 12 gangs in Toledo when he left the mayor's office almost four years ago. No matter how many gangs are reflected on the map, he said, he maintains there are only a dozen legitimate gangs and, if they were taken down by police, the rest would follow.

The biggest gang in the city, Mr. Finkbeiner said, should be the Toledo Police Department.

In 1975, when Jack Ford was a parole officer, there were three or four groups he considered gangs. Looking at the map, he said it was clear that gangs had increased.

The neighborhoods with the most gang activity, he said, have seen a loss of human services programs. There are fewer jobs, more vacant houses, and properties that are worth less than ever.

“This is pretty scary stuff to see it,” Mr. Ford said. “ ... I hope it [the map] becomes a community catalyst for conversation, not just for gang suppression, but why do they get involved in gangs?”



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