YOUNGSTOWN 2-day seminar targets block-watch training

Crime tends to stay away from active block-watch areas, one officer said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Block-watch members get frustrated when they call police about problems but little happens.
Police get frustrated when block-watch members call but have little of the information officers need to be effective.
Police Lt. Rod Foley and city block-watch leaders are solving such problems this week.
About 30 block-watch presidents and vice presidents from around the city are finishing a two-day seminar this evening.
The sessions are showing citizen groups how to better help police and solve some neighborhood problems on their own.
"We're giving them some tools to use," said Foley, who arranged for the seminar, free to the city. "It's definitely helpful for us."
A federally funded agency called Tri-State Regional Community Policing Institute in Cincinnati is conducting the seminar. The agency's focus is improving relations between citizens and police.
About the seminars
Tri-State offers nearly three dozen seminars that link citizens and police. Offerings range from community problem solving to helping school officials avert violence and programs for parents and youth on drugs and gangs.
A retired commander of Cincinnati's community oriented police unit is conducting the seminar.
An example of the training:
A citizen calls to complain about a drug house. An officer can't do much unless he or she actually sees the drug dealing, which doesn't happen too often, Foley said. Instead, police need citizens to gather information.
Descriptions of people, the time of day activity happens and license plate numbers of cars nearby all help police investigate, Foley said.
Active block watches are another way citizens can help police.
The training is showing block watches that having regular and structured meetings, creating newsletters and holding events such as neighborhood cleanups help themselves and police, Foley said.
"These are all issues a block watch can address," he said.
Too many block watches get energized when there is a spate of burglaries, for example, but disappear soon after, Foley said. They have to get restarted when crime rises again, which costs residents and police valuable time.
Staying organized
Crime tends to stay away from active block-watch areas, he said. Any crime that does surface can be dealt with quickly because neighbors and police are organized, Foley said.
"The ones that do well are the ones with lots of activities scheduled," he said.
Foley became aware of Tri-State when he formed the city police bike patrol, which since has been discontinued because of layoffs.
He saw too many frustrated and disorganized block watches. So, he took Tri-State's offerings to the Weed and Seed program's community policing committee, which is made of up of South Side block watch officials. The committee embraced the idea and spread the word to other block watches in the city.

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