Improving safety and quality of life in Toledo is the responsibility of everyone who lives and works here, officials said during a Friday morning forum on urban safety.
“Open your eyes. Open your ears. Listen,” Toledo police Officer Dana Slay, one of the department’s nine community services officers, said. “Block Watch is everybody’s business even if it doesn’t involve you.”
The meeting, hosted by the Press Club of Toledo at the downtown Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, featured a panel of Officer Slay, Sgt. Joe Heffernan, Chief William Moton, and Mayor D. Michael Collins.
The 90-minute discussion drew about three dozen people, mostly journalists. It focused on community involvement and the department’s efforts to become more engaged in neighborhoods.
“We can’t do this on our own,” police Capt. Mike Troendle said. “No matter how many officers we have in your neighborhood, we don’t know your neighborhood like you do.”
Since Chief Moton took over the department in January, the number of designated community-services officers has tripled from three to nine.
Those officers, once the newest class of officers finishes its four-month training period, will be teamed with nuisance and code enforcement inspectors and assigned to each “sector” in the city.
The officers will be “dealing with blight and taking criminal complaints,” Chief Moton said.
The increase in community service is in line with the chief’s and mayor’s desire to re-establish “beat integrity.”
“I think this is realistically a way to travel through the city of Toledo and gradually improve it,” Mayor Collins said. “There is no magic silver bullet. To think there is is really a thought that’s not realistic.”
The mayor also said that two veteran police officers who are now assigned to the newly reopened Northwest Station on West Sylvania Avenue, near Douglas Road, now walk around the neighborhood visiting with business owners and residents and introducing themselves to students.
Information that these officers learn is passed on to vice-narcotics officers and the gang unit.
“That’s really the true test of where policing is when neighbors know police are available,” the mayor said.
The department also touted gains in technology, including the release of a crime mapping system that allows anyone to check crimes that have been reported within a half-mile of an address.
That, with data-driven policing and the real-time crime cameras, is positioning the department to better police the city, Chief Moton said.
“Hopefully, we’re putting something in place that’s going to last, and it’s going to help keep this community safer,” Chief Moton said.
Officer Slay stressed the importance of Block Watch and encouraged participation.
“Block Watch is so very well needed, and we need more people to participate in Block Watch,” said Officer Slay, who is assigned to 1 Sector, the part of West Toledo that encompasses Alexis Avenue, Lewis Avenue, and Jackman Road.
“We need more people to participate in Block Watch. Like I said, we don’t know what’s going on in your neighborhoods — you can tell us that. Once you inform us of that, we can go and check out the situation for you.”