By ED RUNYAN
Police Capt. Joe Marhulik believes the arrest of four more “johns” in a neighborhood that has become notorious on the Internet for prostitution will push the trade out — and hopefully not just to another part of town.
“We’ve been going to a lot of the neighborhood meetings and telling people to send us an e-mail or fill out an action card,” (available at the police department and other locations) Marhulik said of officers who are part of the Weed and Seed grant program.
Weed and Seed is a federally funded program focused on reducing blight and improving conditions in several targeted neighborhoods in the central and southwestern parts of the city.
Marhulik and Lt. Eric Merkel targeted the “Short North” area on at Atlantic Street and Prospect Avenue just east of Mahoning Avenue late Saturday because people have continued to complain about cars circling the neighborhood looking for prostitutes and drugs.
Marhulik added that the Internet has been full of “reviews” of various prostitutes working in the neighborhood for many months, though he believes he reviews stopped about a month ago.
Marhulik said this is the second time officers have arrested the “johns” in that neighborhood, adding “we’ll keep doing it” — arresting the “johns” and the prostitutes. Three men were charged with soliciting for prostitution in April.
In both “stings,” a female officer posed as a prostitute.
Last weekend, officers worked from 11 p.m. Saturday to 3 a.m. Sunday, arresting Robert A. Branch, 22, of Ohio Avenue Northwest, Warren, and Mitchell A. Callahan, 25, of Cherry Street, Niles, at just after midnight; Jeremiah Summerlin, 53, of Weilacher Drive Southwest, Warren, a 12:35 a.m.; and Leo E. Scruggs III, 40, of Fourth Street Southwest, Warren, at 1 a.m.
Each was charged with soliciting, a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. All were arraigned Monday in Warren Municipal Court, pleading not guilty.
Callahan and Summerlin were released a few hours after their arrest Sunday. Scruggs was released on bail Monday, and Branch remained in jail Monday.
If the police department and neighborhood groups continue to work together, “we’ll hopefully keep pushing” prostitution out of the city and reduce it. ... You can never eliminate it,” Marhulik said.
The department conducted extra patrols in Southwest Warren — mainly on the west and east sides of Tod Avenue Southwest — on July 7 and 8, which resulted in 37 arrests being made and 23 traffic citations being issued, Marhulik said.
Among the arrests were 11 for driving under suspension, one for heroin possession, one for marijuana possession, 12 for warrants and three for loud music.
The department employed four officers each for six four-hour shifts July 7 and 8, Marhulik said.