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Published: Wednesday, 10/2/2002

Alliance promises cleaner, safer area near Swayne Field

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Neighbors, city officials and business leaders in the Swayne Field area have formed an alliance to clean up the area around Monroe and Bancroft streets and Detroit Avenue and make it safer.

Businessmen Rami Eidi and Herbie Howard have helped rally businesses in the area while working with city Councilwoman Wilma Brown, the Rev. Martin Donnelly, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church and city officials.

Mr. Eidi owns Eidi Properties and Monroe Carryout at 2839 Monroe, and Herbie Howard, a consultant for American Petroleum, owns a station at 2933 Monroe.

As part of the newly formed Monroe Detroit Business Association, the men formed a coalition of 12 businesses that have paid for weekend security in the Swayne Field area where teenagers and young adults often congregate late at night.

“I think it was our moral obligation to help out,” Mr. Howard said. “We didn't cause the problem, but we are going to help resolve it.”

At least one neighborhood leader said the businesses were convinced to pitch in because they didn't want to take a chance on losing their licenses to sell alcohol.

Ronald Grant, executive director of the Toledo Central City Neighborhoods group, said the organization sent letters to businesses this summer, notifying them of plans to put on the next election ballot a dry precinct issue for Precinct 8-A and 8-B, that would include the carryout stores in the Monroe, Detroit and Bancroft area.

“I believed things changed because of that,” Mr. Grant said. “We agreed that we would drop our effort [to vote the precincts dry] if they worked with the neighbors in cleaning up their businesses.”

Mr. Eidi and Mr. Howard denied that was the case. They said their businesses and others in the association came to the table in good faith.

Police and neighbors have long been concerned about the large groups of teens and young adults that gather in the area late at night and in the early mornings from Thursday to Sunday.

In June, Dupont Enterprises pulled out of the St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church festival a day early after five of its trucks were vandalized during rowdy behavior at the end of the carnival's second night.

Some of the carnival organizers blamed the crowds that often congregate in the area and the carry outs as part of the problem.

For others, the crowds were reminiscent of the groups that used to gather in the parking lot of the old Club Bourbon in the 1990s, where Food Town and Home Depot are located in the 3200 and 3300 blocks of Secor Road.

In the early hours of June 11, 1995, someone fired shots into a crowd of teenagers and killed Kevin Ellis, then a recent graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, and wounded seven others. No one was ever convicted in the shooting.

“That was the type of things we were trying to avoid,” said Jay Black, Toledo Mayor Jack Ford's chief of staff.

Mr. Black was part of the early meetings this summer with the business leaders and Ms. Brown. “We met with all of the businesses and they seemed to understand that and we started looking for solutions,” he said.

Mr. Howard said the business association has hired security officers for the past couple of months and recently approached the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association for additional help.

“We meet on a regular basis,” Mr. Howard said. “You can't blame the police [for the gatherings] because the police are overwhelmed. This can take some of the pressure off the police.”



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