Local officials are exploring options to help maintain a visible police presence in Old Orchard and West Toledo, following removal of patrol officers from the Northwest District Police Station.
More than 50 patrol officers were shifted to the department's two other stations last week in an effort to reduce overtime expenses. The West Sylvania Avenue station will remain in use by 15 detectives and other personnel.
The consolidation was the topic of discussion at a public hearing attended by more than 150 concerned neighborhood residents last week.
Many reported having been victims of burglary.
"I've been broken into five times in 13 months," said Rob Radil, 38, of Old Orchard. "We need to increase police patrols and all they're doing is cutting back."
Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre told residents that the changes are final and that more cuts may be coming. He said the city is facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.
The consolidation and other cuts are expected to save $500,000.
"The economy is tough right now and the government is responding to it," he said. "If we don't, we're going to be surrounded in red ink."
District 5 Councilman Tom Waniewski said in a letter to constituents that the changes are unlikely to be reversed.
To heighten security, he proposed additional bike patrols, establishing a volunteer squad, and parking out-of-service police cars at the station. Mr. Waniewski is also hoping to pressure the city to hire a new class of police by October and use University of Toledo officers to help patrol the neighborhood.
"What I want to do moving forward is establish a presence" in the neighborhood, Mr. Waniewski said.
Chief Navarre said the patrolman's union has expressed opposition to the creation of a volunteer patrol. But the Northwest station may be used to house the department's Retired, Senior, Volunteer Patrol (R.S.V.P.). The volunteer surveillance group, armed with only police radios and cell phones, works to alert police of criminal activity.
In addition, Chief Navarre said that the department will likely use the station's parking lot to store patrol cars. The tactic would ease overcrowding at other stations and increase the appearance of a police presence, he said.
The chief said it is important to remember that police officers will still use the station; they will only be dispatched from somewhere else.
"Their place of work is the beat where they're assigned," he said.
The Northwest station will remain open 24 hours each day and will be used by detectives and other personnel, he said.
Still, residents such as Laura Crandall, of the West Toledo neighborhood near the Blessed Sacrament parish, said the fully staffed station was a comfort.
"We're afraid of crime coming back or increasing," she said. "We're just trying to preserve our neighborhood and keep it strong and keep it safe."
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