Robert Brundage didn't know it, but danger was lurking early Monday evening among the venerable homes and tall trees at the northeast edge of Toledo's historic Old West End.
There, near the Collingwood Boulevard intersection with Victoria Place, police say, a 15-year-old brutally attacked Mr. Brundage, 66, as he was riding his bicycle, punching him and knocking him to the ground, then stealing the bike.
Mr. Brundage remains in critical condition at St. Vincent Medical Center, unconscious with a broken jaw and bleeding on his brain.
He is a well-respected community activist, musician, and scientist who holds a doctorate in biophysics from Brandeis University near Boston and returned to his boyhood home in the neighborhood in 1997 after retiring.
Dailahntae Jemison of 7 Tremain Drive, who police say confessed to the assault and robbery, is charged with aggravated robbery and is locked up at the downtown Juvenile Justice Center.
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/jpg/TO66067417.JPG> <b><font color=red>VIEW: </b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO67503628.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Violent crime mars Old West End's stately heritage</b></a>
Police confirmed the teenagerhad no criminal record, and family and friends said the sophomore at Horizon Academy was not a problem child.
The attack is another re-minder that violence can erupt anywhere.
Yet given the neighborhood's central location and relative affluence, Old West End residents said they are saddened and shocked by the assault, but not surprised.
They long have been aware of a need for vigilance, be it keeping an eye on one another's homes or chipping in for a private neighborhood security service.
"We try to look out for each other and look out after one another's property," said Ed Hoffman, a resident for more than three decades and a sales agent with Sulphur Springs Realty.
"While we may not always agree with each other, we have one common bond: the love for and dedication to retaining the integrity of the neighborhood."
No police department crime figures for the neighborhood were available last week.
Still, individuals both in and outside the neighborhood acknowledged the existence of a lingering perception of the Old West End as dangerous.
Once the home to Toledo's wealthy, the neighborhood is now made up mostly of middle-class urban survivors and historic preservationists surrounded by some of the highest crime areas in the city.
Greg Knott, a retired real estate agent who has lived in the Old West End since 1967, said he feels safe enough to walk his dog each evening around 10 p.m. before bed. "But I'm also not stupid," he said.
"If I were to see three or four youths standing on a street corner or coming out of a side street, I think I'd go the other way."
He continued: "One of the problems - if it is a problem - is the Old West End is somewhat of an island of middle-class people surrounded by a different socioeconomic [demographic]."
Robert Rudolph, an elder and lay leader at the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, said safety concerns were a factor in the church's decision to move out of the neighborhood last year, going from its stately building at Collingwood Boulevard and Bancroft Street to a smaller home on Glendale Avenue in South Toledo.
He said the congregation's members were shocked when an intruder assaulted a woman inside the church, knocking her to the floor and taking her purse. The church then hired an off-duty sheriff's deputy to stand watch during Sunday services.
Still, another intruder slipped into the church and stole the director of religious education's purse during a Sunday service. The deputy chased down the suspect, who ditched the purse in an abandoned garage and was not apprehended, Mr. Rudolph said.
"It's a matter of perception - of the area being an area where you need to be wary," he said, adding that other reasons for the congregation's move were maintenance and utilities costs for the 1921 building and a shrinking congregation with fewer Old West End residents.
In 1981, the Old West End neighborhood was the first in the city to hire a private security force. Residents' monthly dues continue to support Old West End Security, a nonprofit that subcontracts patrols through Infinite Security Solutions.
Resident Manager Jackie Danchisen estimated that about 90 percent of crimes in the neighborhood are committed by youths from outside the neighborhood.
The patrolling security guards know, among other things, residents' names, the vehicles they drive, and their regular visitors. They also notify homeowners if they leave their garage door open and check on houses when the owners are away.
Not every resident pays the $25 voluntary monthly membership fee, but the guards cover the whole neighborhood, although they concentrate on areas where subscribers live. They may travel in marked or unmarked vehicles, on foot, or on bikes.
Ms. Danchisen declined to discuss the number of subscribers, guards, or areas patrolled, citing safety concerns.
Despite the security presence, many Old West End residents have resigned themselves to the inevitability of certain crimes.
Several residents purposely leave their vehicles unlocked and devoid of anything valuable so would-be vandals won't break the glass.
Mia Thomas, 34, of Scottwood Avenue said her car was broken into three or four times in four months while it was parked outside her house. She suspects that "young kids or crackheads" were responsible.
She said the car has not been broken into since she unlocked its doors and attached a note to the car that said, "Get a [expletive] job."
"When you live down here you have to realize that you're taking on some risk," said one middle-aged man who keeps four large barking dogs to ward off burglars.
A resident of the neighborhood for 17 years, he asked to not be named for fear of retribution.
Homes on either side of his have been burglarized multiple times, and he suspects that his dogs have kept his property safe. His house is close to where Mr. Brundage was assaulted, just blocks from where some residents say they often see groups of unruly youths.
"When you go back there, it's just groups of kids," said Brenda Coleman, 53, whose Victoria Place house is just outside the eastern Old West End boundary. "They don't respect you and they talk crazy to you."
The neighborhood of beautiful stone and wood mansions and smaller - but still large - homes, many transformed into multiapartment dwellings, is roughly bordered by Collingwood Boulevard on the east, Detroit Avenue on the west, I-75 and Monroe Street on the south, and Central Avenue on the north.
Notwithstanding the recent attack, Mr. Knott said he believes the Old West End is safer now than it was in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The area once was home to Toledo's leaders of business and industry, who built the Old West End into one of the largest and finest examples of late 19th and early 20th-century architecture in the United States. But most of those storied families had left by the late 1960s.
Mr. Knott said the neighborhood became "a haven" for artists, hippies, gays, and interracial couples and that few residents from that period had children. Outsiders often ask him why he chose to live there. "It wasn't that bad, but other people would say, 'Well, why do you live down there in that neighborhood? I wouldn't live there - I'd be afraid to go out at night.'•"
Several high-profile crimes during the 1970s solidified the Old West End's reputation for danger.
In 1975, three young men entered the home of 95-year-old Lyman Spitzer, Sr., the renowned industrialist and businessman, binding his hands with electrical cord and raping his housekeeper. Mr. Spitzer, who lived to age 99, was not injured in the attack, which netted $90.
Another incident, Mr. Knott said, happened in the late '70s when a group of young toughs from outside the neighborhood incited violence at an outdoor party at the home of Murray Wightman, a well-regarded real-estate agent since deceased.
Crime declined into the 1980s, and property values rose. The Old West End historic district was expanded to its current size in 1984.
Residents say that over the past two decades, the neighborhood has come alive again with young children and families.
"It's like living in a small town," said Judy Stone, who has been a neighborhood resident 25 years. "We know our neighbors; we know when they come and go If I were going on vacation, neighbors on both sides of me know I'm gone, have keys to my house, know my alarm system."
She doubts that she could find such a tight-knight community anywhere else in northwest Ohio.
Ms. Stone noted how more than 100 friends and neighbors gathered at the Collingwood Arts Center on the evening following the attack on Mr. Brundage to share stories about him and to send him "healing thoughts."
"The neighbors came together so quickly to help one another," she said, holding back tears at the memory.
Contact JC Reindl at:
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