A record crowd, including a Toledo City Council member and two mayoral candidates, showed up at the regular joint monthly meeting of the Neighborhood Association of North Toledo and North Toledo Block Watch 332C last night.
Sixty-five people were at North Toledo's Wilson Park for the meeting that usually draws 15 to 20.
"I have never seen this many people in this room," Block Watch captain Jim Snodgrass said as he looked around the shelter house.
The turnout had a simple explanation: North Toledo residents are worried about crime after highly publicized attacks - one of them fatal - on two elderly women in their homes and the layoffs of 75 police officers this month.
"People are concerned, and the crime is giving us a black eye," Theo Washington, chairman of the neighborhood association, said before the meeting.
He said the police layoffs had citizens wondering about the effectiveness of Block Watch.
"Block Watch is fine. But what we do is call the police if we see trouble. If we don't have police, what can we do?" he asked.
Speakers at the meeting tried to be reassuring.
Valerie Moffitt, a representative of NorthRiver Development Corp., a North Toledo community improvement group, told residents that their part of Toledo was "one of the most proactive communities" where crime pre-vention was concerned.
District Councilman Michael Ashford, who represents North Toledo, acknowledged that public safety had become a major concern and urged residents to be alert and look out for each other.
"It is very important that we get our neighbors involved," Mrs. Ashford said. "You will serve as mainly the eyes and ears in preventing future crime in Toledo."
Mr. Ashford said he had plenty of experience with Block Watch groups, and explained "It's how active and organized you are" that determines the value of a Block Watch.
He also told residents to vote in November, when all six at-large council members are up for re-election. Ask the candidates, he said, "where they stand in getting officers back on the street."
The police layoffs, Mr. Ashford said, "have changed the way we live." Citizens, he continued, "have to worry about being safe in their homes. That never should have had to happen."
Both of the recent female crime victims were 88 and lived near each other on Mulberry Street.
Anna Slandzicki was punched in the face by an intruder she surprised at about 1 a.m. Sunday in her home.
She lives close to the home of Kenneth and Francis Fox. Mrs. Fox was killed and her husband was critically injured in their home by an intruder earlier this month. Mrs. Fox died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head. Her husband survived the attack and called 911 after lying unconscious for days. The Fox home was ransacked.
When audience members complained about the proliferation of carry-outs in the neighborhood, mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski, who grew up in North Toledo, advised that residents could "vote a precinct dry" by mounting a petition initiative to put the issue on the ballot. He told them they could expect no help from Ohio's Liquor Control Commission.
Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, who also is running for mayor, urged seniors without a cell phone to get one for free at the Zablocki Senior Center, 3015 Lagrange St.
The phones can be used to call 911, he explained. "It's something I started two years ago, and I'm pretty proud of it," he said.
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