The Rev. Cedric Brock, second from left, pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church, speaks at the news conference as, from left, Rev. Theodis Horton of Shiloh Baptist Church, Toledo Councilman Wilma Brown, and community activist Bernard 'Pete' Culp listen.
A group of about 30 African-American leaders, including pastors from numerous churches and presidents of various organizations, yesterday called on Toledo's black community to help slow violence in the city and inform authorities about criminal activity.
The group held a news conference in front of the Toledo Police substation at Nebraska Avenue and Division Street. It was called in response to the rash of homicides and other shootings that have occurred in Toledo over the last two weeks.
The substation is near Brand Whitlock Homes, where Ericka Graham, 27, was shot in the head Sept. 25. Her former boyfriend, Charles McDonald, 33, of 1311 Fernwood Ave., was arrested for the homicide and is being held in the Lucas County jail.
On Monday, Eugene McMillian, 35, was found dead with gunshot wounds in the head and thigh in an alley on Sylvan Avenue, near West Bancroft Street. His was the city's 11th homicide in a little over two weeks.
The Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor at Mount Nebo Baptist Church, said churches and ministers will make themselves available as "safe havens" for crime victims or those worried about crime in their communities.
Mr. Brock also asked that the black community pray for peace in their neighborhoods three times a day, at 9 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.
"God does hear and God does answer prayers," Mr. Brock said. "This is a gigantic step to let the community know that we do care. We're not just in the comfort of our four walls. We're going beyond the walls and doing what we can."
Toledo police Detective Harold Mosley said the department needs people with informa-tion about past murders and other crimes to step forward either anonymously through the Crime Stopper program or directly to detectives and officers.
"The alternative is that we allow these criminals to roam loose in our community," Detective Mosley said during the news conference. "It comes to a point where they become relaxed and say it's OK to commit crimes in the black community because no one will tell. No one wants to be a snitch. The issue is not being a snitch. It's a quality-of-life issue."
Toledo Councilmen Wilma Brown and Lourdes Santiago reinforced Detective Mosley's call for community help in solving the rash of crimes.
"We need more police. But even if we had enough, they can't guard us 24 hours a day," said Ms. Brown, who is the chairman of council's public safety committee.
WilliAnn Moore, president of the Toledo branch of the NAACP, and Bernard "Pete" Culp, of the community group Committee of the Whole, said a more comprehensive strategy should be developed to bring law enforcement and the black community together.
They said the walls of mistrust and apprehension between African-Americans and police should be chipped away on a regular basis instead of in times of crisis.
"The police shouldn't be viewed as oppressors, but protectors," Mr. Culp said. "We need to all put together a plan we can all embrace and all have a piece of so we can say to the whole community that the black community is just as concerned about safety and quality of life as anybody else."
Mr. Culp called for the recruitment of more black police officers and firefighters while Mrs. Moore said a greater effort needs to be made to engage the community on a daily basis.
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