By SEAN BARRON
A rash of car break-ins, vacant homes being used by drug dealers, excessive speeding and the occasional robbery are far too common in several sections of the city’s South Side and the northern portion of Boardman Township, many community leaders and residents say.
Also common to those areas, however, are those determined to tackle those problems head on.
That was the main thrust of the South Side/North Boardman Neighborhood Group Summit on Wednesday at the Newport branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, 3730 Market St. About 100 people attended the 90-minute session.
The gathering brought together community leaders and members of the Newport Neighborhood Association, Boulevard Park Block Watch, Forest Glen Homeowners Association, North Boardman Neighborhood Watch and the Handel’s Block Watch group, all of which are in Boardman or on the South Side.
“It’s strength in numbers,” said Francine Jeffries, president of the Newport Neighborhood Association. “The more ideas there are, the more resolutions.”
If large numbers of neighbors look out for one another, criminal activity will be curtailed, Jeffries said, adding that she advocates having a “call tree” to alert everyone to a burglary, for example.
Despite the 25 mph speed limit on Hudson Avenue, some drivers travel 60 mph or more and use it to get around speed bumps on nearby streets, noted Bert Ehrenberg, a member of the North Boardman group.
“[Some] people don’t have respect for the neighborhoods and the law,” Ehrenberg said, adding that his organization has a good relationship with police.
Knowing fellow neighbors, having security systems and good lighting are necessary, but those alone only cause crime to become someone else’s problem, explained Marcy Svenson, the Forest Glen association’s traffic and safety chairwoman.
“We can solve the break-in problem for our neighborhoods immediately with our resources, but it will move to other neighborhoods. It won’t help the community” as a whole, she said.
A good solution would be a call system linking other neighborhood groups to quickly alert hundreds of people simultaneously when criminal activity occurs, Svenson said.
The Boulevard Park area also isn’t immune to break-ins, burglaries and the occasional robbery, so a greater police presence is vital, said Christine Silvestri, the group’s treasurer.
If police don’t consistently take such crimes seriously, more people will likely move, which will cause the area to decline, decrease the city’s tax base and invite more crime and other problems, she pointed out.
Many residents volunteer to patrol the Boulevard Park area at night in 60- to 90-minute increments, Silvestri added.
It’s important for neighbors to get to know one another better and let troublemakers know they’re being monitored, but it’s equally important to resist profiling those who commit crimes, noted Dave Starr, president of the Handel’s Block Watch.
Positive developments in his area include more residents taking care of their homes and properties. Also, more people are walking at night, Starr said.
Others’ ideas included having a city watch system to make more people aware of crime faster; offering after-school and other programs to educate and help youngsters headed for trouble; using cell phones to photograph and send to police pictures of criminals; combating domestic violence, which negatively impacts youngsters; and having programs to help boys become positive role models.
Remarks also were made by Jimmy Hughes and Jack Nichols, police chiefs of Youngstown and Boardman, respectively.