Gunfire incidents increase in Southwest Warren area

By Ed Runyan

One Warren councilman said police officers should show visibility and control every day.

WARREN — There’s been a lot of gun violence around the Fourth Street Southwest home where Johnnie Anderson lives with her boys, ages 6, 4 and 1.

Much of the violence has made news in recent weeks, such as the car hit by gunfire last Thursday on Lane Drive Southwest that narrowly missed hitting a 2-year-old.

She keeps her drapes closed and door locked to protect her family from the violence as much as possible. One thing closed drapes don’t keep out, however, is the sound of gunfire.

“I’m starting to hear a lot — like gunshots and stuff,” she said Wednesday afternoon.

But for Anderson, the gun violence that shocked her the most never made news.

About two weeks ago, a person ran to Anderson’s front porch, where gunshots were fired at him or her. None of the shots hit her house, and she didn’t open the door to see what happened.

But the episode has changed her mind about where she lives.

“I was in shock,” she said of seeing how close the violence had come. “The next day, I went looking for a house,” she said. “I gotta get off of this street.”

Anderson, 30, lives in a two-story home just a few blocks from the Highland Homes apartments where she lived growing up.

She said has lived in the neighborhood most of her life, so she accepts a lot of what goes on — drug dealing and violence. When she moved into her home two years ago, the landlords promised to put up a fence so that her sons could play outside, but the fence never came.

“I’m a single mother, and they want to play,” she said, but much of the time she has to say no, which causes them to get restless inside the house.

She is hoping to move by the end of April to the Palmyra Heights area west of her present home.

Wednesday afternoon the Warren Police Department decided something needed to be done.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos, Warren officers and officers with the Northern Ohio Violent Fugitives Task Force flooded the Southwest area for about five hours starting at 4 p.m. in what a Warren councilman called a “zero-tolerance” effort.

At 487 Fourth St. S.W., officers arrested an 18-year-old city man in the attic of a home who was wanted on warrants charging him with felonious assault and improperly discharging a firearm into a habitation.

About three hours later, they arrested Montrea J. Roberts, 19, of Columbus, and charged him with carrying a concealed weapon after they noticed him acting suspiciously in the 1400 block of Fifth Street. Roberts pleaded innocent Wednesday in Warren Municipal Court, and bond for the fourth-degree felony was set at $2,500.

Speeding citations were also written to residents of Warren and Champion who were passing through the area Tuesday afternoon.

Bob Dean, an at-large councilman, and Warren police detective Wayne Mackey said the special focus on the southwest area was prompted in part by threats that have been made recently toward Warren officers involving the use of AK-47 firearms against the police.

Dean said he’s tried for years to focus attention on the problems of the southwest neighborhood, but most other city officials have ignored the problem.

Dean said he has spent much time in Southwest Warren riding with police officers. He carries a stack of photographs showing what happens when officers drive into the area: Young men frequently pull hoodies up over their heads or turn away so officers can’t look at their faces.

“The question is, why has it been allowed to go on?” Dean said of drug dealing and other illegal activities there.

Dean said Tuesday’s effort is a taste of what needs to happen in the southwest area every day: “You show visibility. You show control,” Dean said.

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