Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Police & Fire

Toledo Block Watch offers ‘bridge’

Community, police ties celebrated as group marks 34th year

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    From left, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson; Janet Beam, vice chair of Block Watch, and chairman Lucinda Kinnan dedicate a weeping cherry tree for Liz Pearson during the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch community picnic.

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    Spider-Man follows members of the JJ Express as they perform during the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch community picnic at the Liz Pearson Shelter House in Ottawa Park in Toledo.

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    From left, Allison Hebert, Cathy Hebert, Austin Rickard, Frank Hebert, and Gabriella Rickard attend the picnic. Frank Hebert is a sector leader and board member of Block Watch.

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    Armiah White, 3, talks with Spider-Man during the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch community picnic at the Liz Pearson Shelter House in Ottawa Park.

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    Community Service Bureau patrol officer Hassane Cheaib and others stand for the National Anthem during the picnic. The Block Watch pro­gram has about 70 lead­ers man­ag­ing eight sec­tors in Toledo, and each leader has 10 to 15 ad­di­tional par­tic­i­pants.

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A trio of happy young girls running around Ottawa Park wasn’t an unusual sight, until a remote-controlled police camera robot joined the game.

The girls paused as the track-driven device caught up to them, then quickly scattered, laughing as the robot chased them through the Liz Pearson Shelter House at the annual Toledo Block Watch community picnic Saturday.

The all-volunteer program is celebrating its 34th year as the neighborhood eyes and ears of the Glass City, established by Elizabeth Pearson in 1982.

“The more eyes and ears we have, the more it helps the police department and our neighborhoods,” said Lucinda Kinnan, chairman of the program.

The picnic included a brief ceremony dedicating a newly planted weeping cherry tree in memory of Ms. Pearson, and comments from Toledo Police Chief George Kral, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, and Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

The mayor, who said she knew Ms. Pearson in the early days of Block Watch, said the program’s founder would be very proud of how well it is doing today.

“She wanted police to know they were not alone, and for citizens to know they are not alone,” she said. “The way that we can bridge it is through Block Watch.”

The program has about 70 leaders managing eight sectors in Toledo, and each leader has an average of 10 to 15 additional participants.

“I do see numbers growing,” Ms. Kinnan said. “I see that people are really noticing that they need to participate, help their communities.”

The program is backed by the Toledo Police Department, and a large number of officers attended the picnic to help grill food, demonstrate vehicles and equipment, and mingle.

“I say this every time anybody asks me, that we could not do our job without Block Watch,” Chief Kral told the crowd. “We simply don’t have enough officers to be everywhere. You are our eyes and ears, and without you, we would not be as successful as we are.”

Ms. Kinnan said increased tension nationwide between police and the general public may make Block Watch even more important in years to come.

“We are like the middle ground between citizens and the police department,” she said. “A lot of our citizens will not go to the police department when they have an issue, but they’ll come to us.”

Chief Kral acknowledged the importance of Block Watch’s role in connecting residents to the police department.

“Please don’t lose the faith,” he said. “Between the two of us, we’re going to make this city much safer to live in and a much happier place to raise a family.”

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

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