For 9 years, north Boardman group has kept its eyes open for suspicious activity
On Hudson Drive, the rows of houses are brick, and the lawns are trimmed.
The cold has kept people and pets indoors, save for an occasional car driving past. Hudson Drive is quiet.
It doesn’t seem like the same neighborhood where car windows were smashed, sheds broken into and residents robbed at gunpoint.
“I’ve walked the dogs through these streets and never had any issues or problems at all,” said Ralph Meacham, president of the North Boardman Block Watch, which encompasses the northern part of the township known collectively as The Glen.
But he has had some other problems. On a recent Fourth of July, a man tried to break in Meacham’s garage door.
“The police came and chased him with dogs, and the person ran back,” he said.
The block watch began about nine years ago after a string of vandalism, said Charlotte Diss, who has lived in the area for 11 years.
The block watch meets at 6 p.m. on the second Wednesday of odd months at the Newport Library on the corner of Market Street and Midlothian Boulevard. The next meeting is Wednesday.
Attendance fluctuates depending on crime levels. After a man walking his dog was robbed at gunpoint, 38 residents came to the following block watch meeting, but attendance usually averages a dozen, Diss said.
Howard Taylor has lived on Hudson Drive for 16 years and been in the block watch since its inception.
“The police tell us it’s not just The Glen — it’s all over. It’s hard to convince the people who live in The Glen that that’s the case because we don’t see what goes on the other side of [U.S. Route] 224,” Taylor said.
Police Chief Jack Nichols agreed, although he noted the neighborhood has the disadvantage of being within walking distance to the South Side of Youngstown.
“As an average, [the area] is no more subject to the goings on of the street thugs and crime than anybody else. They’re pretty consistent with the rest of the township,” he said.
Nichols said he knows of two other township block watches and that the police department encourages the formation of such groups.
“They’re feisty out there. They make their case for what they want. They’re taxpayers, and I respect that. I like that they’re involved. It’s nothing but a benefit for us,” he added.
The block-watch members call the police when they see something suspicious and urge other homeowners to do the same. They also keep a special watch on their elderly neighbors.
“We made a very conscientious effort to watch the property, watch the houses and check on them. Some didn’t have family nearby. It was just watching out for everybody. I feel personally all neighbors should do that,” Diss said.
Meacham, Diss and Taylor agree that the block watch is not project-oriented, but if something arises, such as cleaning up dilapidated apartments, they undertake it. It functions as an outlet for communication among residents and township elected and safety officials.
“I don’t think we succeed or fail in this. When we come together, it’s a forum. If we sit there, and it’s six of us looking at each other and we talk for half an hour, we go on our way. We are there to give people a chance to talk if they have an issue,” Meacham said.