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Published: Friday, 5/15/2009

Block Watch leader vows to carry on

The chairman of the Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch Program last night expressed optimism that his group would continue to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the Toledo police, despite the fact that the seven community service officers who served as liaisons to the group have been reassigned to shift duty because of recent police layoffs.

"Before May 1, Block Watch had seven CSOs, one sergeant, and two lieutenants," Michael Dearth said at a news conference in the police department's Ottawa Park substation. "After May 1, we now have, in essence, one sergeant and one lieutenant," he continued. "This is what we are left with to handle the information and complaints being generated by 160 Block Watch groups across the city."

As a result of the 75 police layoffs, Block Watch will work with "drastically reduced resources" from the Toledo police, he said.

The community service officers who normally attended the Block Watch meetings were a "conduit" for information to and from the citizenry, he said. The police also printed the flyers used to publicize the meetings.

Mr. Dearth said since the announcement of the layoff of 75 police officers, he and other Block Watch officials had received more than 30 queries from people interested in forming their own neighborhood groups.

He defended police Chief Mike Navarre. "Though we have taken this blow of losing officers, we support Chief Navarre and know that he is doing his best to maintain patrols at or near previous levels, and that response times will remain low."

Mr. Dearth said he remained optimistic. Even with the laid-off officers, he said, the situation for Block Watch is better than it was from 1982 to 1983, when the Toledo police had no community services section.

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