To fight crime, involve kids in neighborhoods
YOUNGSTOWN -- Maggy Lorenzi is urging citizens on the South Side to work with youths in their neighborhood who are on probation to fight crime and violence in the area.
She asked members of the Southern Boulevard Blockwatch to work with the kids through the Juvenile Justice Center and their probation officers. About 25 people who live in or around a quadrant of Youngstown that covers Florida Avenue to Midlothian Boulevard and Southern Boulevard to Market Street attended Wednesday night's meeting at St. Dominic's Parish Center.
"We're just trying to make a difference in our neighborhood," Lorenzi said.
She and others had worked with some youths on probation on the South Side previously in small projects, but are interested in getting the others involved in the block watch to do the same. She noted there are 700 children on probation on the South Side.
"We'd like to work with these kids who are on probation in our quadrant of the city for two reasons," Lorenzi said. "One reason is to show them at someone cares...the second is that it's a deterrent. They're not being dragged across the city to work somewhere. They're meeting and getting to know people in their neighborhood. That has to be a deterrent."
She encouraged others attending the meeting to become more active in fighting area crime by working with the area youths and more closely with law enforcement.
While Lorenzi said the area's youth probation officers usually attended the block watch meetings, she said they were unable to attend Wednesday.
However, YPD patrolman Bill Ward and YFD Capt. Alvin Ware were present to discuss some ways of deterring crime.
"I'm hopeful that maybe this year we will see some reduction in crime," Ward said.
As a liaison for YPD Chief Jimmy Hughes for the South and East sides of Youngstown, Ward attends block watches and similar groups, where he said many of the complaints "sound the same." They generally regard vacant houses, rats, abandoned cars and other quality-of-life issues, he said.
"I'm going to try to take on all of these complaints," he said, adding that the city had recently increased police presence in the Southern Boulevard area.
Ware, commander of the arson department, said he expects to see a decrease in the number of arsons this year.
"We had a lot of houses that got hit three or four times, so that really got our stats up," Ware said of the 253 arsons in Youngstown last year.
He also said he finds hope in Mayor Jay Williams' plan for demolition of vacant houses, one issue he, Ward and Lorenzi all see as a potential problem for the area.
"Vacant houses are our largest problem across the city," Ware said.
Lorenzi said there are 111 vacant homes on Auburndale, Avondale and Lucius avenues.
Ware said vacant buildings take time to get demolished, even after arson, because of the Environmental Protection Agency.
"When we get new firefighters, cadets, it's even hard for us to find houses to burn for training," Ware said.
Lorenzi said by documenting events, people and places in the area, the residents would be able to speak to city officials more effectively by speaking together.
"Fifty or a hundred voices speak louder than one," she said.
Lorenzi said Paul Pancoe, 6th Ward councilman, was notified about the block watch meeting but did not respond. Pancoe was at city council's regular meeting Wednesday evening.
Lorenzi also encouraged block watch participants to attend a meeting of the Community Development Agency of Youngstown at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 at Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana Americana on Shirley Road.