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Dividing line

Published: Sun, October 9, 2011 @ 12:05 a.m.


Liberty police officers Ray Buhala, left, and Robert Altier, right, inspect a vacant apartment building in the southern part of the township. As the township evolves from a rural to an urban setting, police are forced to fight a change in the types of crimes with a dwindling police force.


Liberty policeman Sgt. Daniel Kovach inspects a vacant, southside apartment. As the line between the township and Youngstown blurs, drug-related crimes over the past decade have increased.


By Robert Guttersohn



On a routine inspection of the mostly vacant Northgate area of south Liberty, Sgt. Daniel Kovach noticed an apartment basement window knocked out and the front door unlocked.

Within minutes, Patrolman Ray Buhala, with his K-9, Capo, and Patrolman Robert Altier arrived. With the afternoon sun behind them and handguns at the ready, they entered and cleared the apartment finding only the remnants of someone’s living there illegally and the drug paraphernalia they left behind.

The incident is a microcosm of not an uptick but a change in crimes committed in Liberty, particularly along its border with Youngstown, as the township evolves into a more urban identity.

“The only thing that separates us [from Youngstown] is an imaginary line that runs down Gypsy Lane,” said Liberty Police Chief Richard Tisone.

Although violent crime decreased over the last 10 years, crimes involving drugs, burglary, robbery and concealed weapons all have increased.

“There was a time when we had a lot more bars and restaurants out here,” Tisone said. “But now we are getting more calls related to drugs, guns and domestic violence.”

For example, crimes involving drugs increased from 70 in 2000 to 151 in 2010. And 2011 is following the trend with 139 drug-related crimes reported with more than 21/2 months remaining in the year.

Kovach, in his 18th year as a police officer, estimates up to 60 percent of the daily calls are related to drugs.

“The economy is causing a lot of our problems,” he said while driving south through a stretch of the township within walking distance from Northgate but seemingly straight from a Robert Frost poem with medium-sized homes, pine trees and ducks floating across a pond.

Along Belmont Avenue where moderate-income areas touch lower-income areas, business is picking up, Kovach said.

People don’t steal for the thrill. They steal to quickly turn around the item for drugs, he adds.

As crime has increased, the Liberty Police Department has faced a shrinking budget and a losses in personnel. Two years ago, the township trustees instituted a hiring freeze across all departments, and the number of officers in the department decreased due to attrition from 24 in the mid-2000s to 17 currently.

As the department has sought to do more with less, it has collaborated with Youngstown police in controlling crime along the township’s southern corridor. And instead of buying the department new vehicles, it has acquired four in the last two months that were used by drug dealers.

“We will be getting a new [Chevrolet] Tahoe for our K-9 unit,” Tisone said.

But for the safety of its officers who ride alone to crime scenes and for the training of future police officers, the department wants to form a volunteer reserve corps.

Altier remembered responding to a call last summer in Northgate when he was surrounded by 16 gang members. Standing where four apartments cut off any chance of being seen from Colonial Drive to the south, he immediately called for all cars to respond. When backup from both Liberty and Youngstown arrived, the gang broke up.

“It’s about having an extra body in the car,” Kovach said.

“It’s almost like having an intern,” Tisone said of the reserve officers, who would ride along with the full-time policemen.

Volunteers for the reserve officer would pass the police academy, be trained by the department and be commissioned by the state.

“We want to supplement the officers we have, and it would be hardly any cost,” Tisone said, adding that the department would pay only for uniforms and equipment.

“When officers first arrive on a serious crime scene, it’s nice to have that extra man,” said Capt. Ryan Kloss of the Austintown police.

Kloss was an Austintown reserve officer in 1975 before being hired full time two years later, and 31 of the 37 officers employed by the department are products of the reserve corps. But, he said, about nine years ago the township, while under fiscal restraints, stopped replacing officers that left.

“This discouraged a lot of the reserves so they left for other departments,” he said.

The township’s last six hires were from the department and required up to five months of training even if they were experienced officers.

The reserves are “able to start right away,” he said, adding the department is refilling the ranks of its reserve corps.

Liberty Township Trustee Stan Nudell said he was briefed on the Tisone’s proposal and would not guarantee a yes vote until after it was in writing, but said, “It looks like a good program.”

If trustees approve the proposal, Tisone hopes to have reserve officers working by January. He has worked closely with Buhala, who is the Liberty branch president of Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union.

“It would definitely be a benefit to the department,” said Buhala. “If someone retires we can hire one of the reserve officers. We want to maintain the level of officers we have now and have the reserve officers added to the force.”

Tisone and Buhala are in talks with Austintown and other departments that have developed a reserve-corps program.

“What I see in the budget, until we have people leave or until we figure out how to generate more money, there’s not going to be any hiring,” Tisone said. “I believe in a full-time force. But I think that time dictates now that we look into other areas and other ways of getting the job done.”

The department could lose almost a quarter of its $2 million budget if township voters reject a 2-mill police renewal levy on the Nov. 8 ballot It would bring in $463,680 per year for five years beginning in 2012.

“We need [voters] to support the levy,” Tisone said. “It’s crucial.”


1ghostofjohnyoung(163 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Another series of articles by the Vindy to back the tax increase ehh?

No doubt, Liberty has issues and it can thank the Youngstown migrants for that.

"Altier remembered responding to a call last summer in Northgate when he was surrounded by 16 gang members"

What is Northgate? Another public housing project? Sounds like it is.

If so, make the feds and the people responsible for housing these critters pony up the cash to pay for additional police resources they disproportionately ALWAYS consume.

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2Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Altier remembered responding to a call last summer in Northgate when he was surrounded by 16 gang members. Standing where four apartments cut off any chance of being seen from Colonial Drive to the south, he immediately called for all cars to respond. When backup from both Liberty and Youngstown arrived, the gang broke up."

Even the gangbangers know that safety is in the numbers . A one man responce is a sure plan for disaster . The unemployed who have flooded the apartments on the South end of Liberty have nothing better to do than tax the resources of law enforcement . Jobs need created along with a plan to force them to work . Government handouts only subsidize crime .

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

SB5 will free up money for more Liberty policing. Support SB5!

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4Education_Voter(894 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

What a joke that is UnionForever. Hardly.

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5lee(544 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Lets just buld a fence around Y-town

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6pac1234(21 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

That is a shame. Glad I didnt buy that lovely home in Liberty. Once a beautiful area-destroyed by the Youngstown subculture. And sadly Boardman has been ruined as well, the hiring of twenty new police officers wont matter.They will be busy serving the misfits that have moved into Boardman and wont have time to patrol. The Youngstown subculture has permeated the area-even further south into Boardman, to many sec. 8 and irresponsible landlords.

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7Lifes2Short(3879 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

"Altier remembered responding to a call last summer in Northgate when he was surrounded by 16 gang members. Standing where four apartments cut off any chance of being seen from Colonial Drive to the south, he immediately called for all cars to respond. When backup from both Liberty and Youngstown arrived, the gang broke up."

This is when you wish you could just open up and spray them a few times and not talking about mace. Useless wanna b gangstas that are the bottom feeder of human society.

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8pac1234(21 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Or just laugh at them and tell them that they are quite comical with their funny "urban streetwear" and little battles over what most of society would find pathetic ("he owe me twenty").It would be hilarious if it was not so sad how they have ruined nice areas

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9Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Perhaps by the time all of the Liberty Rental units are destroyed the new units to be built at Westlake Terrace will be ready . . . .. Nobody seems too enthused about generating jobs for them so the next logical step would be to up the support payments AKA your taxes . Foraging for dollars from the public is taxing the resources of law enforcement . . . ..

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10pac1234(21 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Seriously though,
Is there anywhere left in the Youngstown Metropolitan Area that is truly nice? I know people always say "south of Western Reserve Rd." It is nice and quiet out that way but it seems like a far drive to get to a favorite restaurant or meet with with friends "in town" for an evening out.

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11valleynative19(52 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This article is obviously nothing more than shameless propoganda designed to garner votes for another tax levy from an already overwhelmed tax base in Liberty Twp.
For a community with one of the highest property taxes in Trumbull Co. they always seem to be broke don't they? Why is that?
Is this situation was a dangerous as the police actors in the photo are portraying it to be there wouldn't be a cameraman tag along for just the right photo op. lol

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12jodymack(7 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Stop the mess and create jobs in the community. That is the major cause of crime, youngsters hanging around with nothing to do. No hopes, dreams or aspirations. Get the families, neighborhoods, education, and jobs in line. Crime will decline.

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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

valleynative19 :

Life in this area starts when the sun goes down . Come, take a walk on the WildSide !

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14valleynative19(52 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Dear Stan,
No thanks!
Liberty police has been plagued with financial problems since Tisone helped himself to the chief's job hasn't it? - hmmmmmm????
A fact proven by prior news articles that told of how money from the fire dept. budget was taken and put in the police budget to keep the dept. operating.
Isn't this illegal to do so under Ohio law?

So now if I read the article correctly he's buying the K-9 unit an expensive new Tahoe, an officer who does not even live in Liberty and takes the vehicle home all the way to Cortland as was mentioned in previous posts buy residents complaining over this fact.

A free workforce sounds nice in theory, but we all know how such ideas really work out in the real world.
Tisone claims in this article that Liberty is budgeted for 24 officers, but currently has 17. Ok, where has the money gone from the salaries of those postions?

Now they are going back to the voters for another levy?
I bet SB5 supporters just love using Liberty Twp. as a shining example of why Issue 2 should be voted in come the Nov. election.

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15republicanRick(1454 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Section 8 housing is the problem.
Solution is -- if you live in Section 8 and guilty of crime you are kicked out. If you live in Section 8 and do not maintain it you are kicked out.

Coddling the criminals like liberals like to do has been proven over the past 50 years that it does not work. Quit letting the scum ruin innocent peoples lives.

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16DanMor(1 comment)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

This is a highly unconvincing piece of journalism. The print version, splashed across the front page with a dramatic photo of gun-toting police officers, suggests that Liberty Township is under siege. A close reading of the story and statistics proves nothing of the sort.

Most striking is the fact that violent crime went DOWN significantly in Liberty from 2006 to 2010. This gets passing acknowledgement, but apparently does not warrant further investigation.

The rates by which crime in other categories did increase are certainly not welcome, but are by no stretch alarming. Thirty-four more "drug-related" crimes in 20010 than 2006? Is this truly a statistically significant number? And what is a "drug-related" crime? One guesses it might include a teenager caught with a small amount of marijuana during a traffic stop. A crime under current law, of course, but evidence of a rising crime wave?

The article cites thirteen more "trespassing, burglary & robbery" crimes in 2010 than 2006. Again, statistically significant? A rising crime wave? The article provides no context or evidence.

Readers are treated to a "you are there" account of officers entering an abandoned apartment in Northgate, only to find remnants of personal belongings and "drug paraphernalia." This was the implied "raid" depicted in the sensational front page photo. If this relatively harmless incident was the best the Liberty Police could produce for the ride-along with the Vindicator reporter and photographer, well, that speaks volumes about the urgency of the crime wave afflicting Liberty. One wonders if this incident was added to the tally of 2011 "drug-related crimes."

Finally, the article mentions only Northgate as an example of a crime-ridden area of the township. Are there others? If so, where? Again, the headline and front page photo suggest the entire township is endangered. Where's the beef?

Obviously, crime at any level is a serious problem for any community, Liberty included. Budgets for public services are regrettably being slashed everywhere, including that of the Liberty Police, as cited in the article. But here we arrive at the crux of the matter. With a 2-mill police renewal measure on the November ballot, it seems obvious that the Liberty Police wish to paint as a dire a picture as possible in order to prod (scare?) voters into supporting the measure.

While there should be no debate about making sure the police have everything they need to perform their duties (vote for the renewal!), scare tactics are another matter. In this case, those tactics have besmirched a community already struggling with the recession and steadily sinking property values.

The Vindicator has allowed itself to become a willing partner in this misguided endeavor, doing further damage the once venerable Liberty Township.

A case study, perhaps, for journalism schools wishing to teach how the profession should not be practiced.

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17valleynative19(52 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Dear DanMor,

You are 110% in your assessment of this news article.
From everything I've heard and now seen in this article this seems to be how the current police administration operates.
So much for maintaining professionalism!
One should also keep in mind when voting for this levy that despite the poormouthing by the police dept. they(the cops) did receive hefty raises in their latest labor contract.
Now with the economy as bad as it is the cops in Liberty didn't hesitate to accept these raises.
Shame on them and their greed!

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18gobucks244(1 comment)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

Although I agree that the picture for the article has been sensationalized, the facts of the article remain true. The twp of Liberty has been in a steady decline over the years regarding criminal activity, as most communities have. Unfortunately, crimes involving drugs have increased tremendously, and just a couple of years ago, a double homicide was committed. I commend the police department for their speed and expertise in solving that horrific crime, and I support measures to make our twp a safer place, which means supporting the upcoming police levy.
As an involved citizen, I also remember years ago when the fire dept. was in debt several hundred dollars. The genius of the trustees at that time was to penalize the police dept by upping their % of payment for the dispatch center to 75% and reducing the fire dept's to 10%. It seems that basically the police dept is only getting their money back.
Tisone has been a valuable leader in an organization that was rapidly declining under the previous leadership. Unlike a neighboring city where crimes, including murders, repeatedly go unsolved, eh-em Girard, our police department has made leaps and bounds proactively protecting our community. Hats off and a job well done! I am eagerly anticipating the new reserve program being implemented in our twp!

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19honestman(33 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

in regards to gobucks, that was not the case at all, the trustee's at the time had a performance audit done by thier own request, not from fire or police, but of their own, and the audit stated that fire was paying to much, the trustee's did that of thier own accord and the police chief at the time wanted total control over dispatch, and when the fire did need money in the past, it borrowed from the general fund, and had to pay the general fund back, none of the 700,000 has been payed back, yes they deposited money in fire accounts just to pull it out a week later as a token jesture to say it was payed back. again the dispatch money figures where based on a study the trustee's had done, neither chief asked for it

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20VindyPost(436 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago


A new reserve program?? Really?? You support putting officers lives at risk for FREE.

Should Burger King, PNC bank, or dilliards have a reserve program? Come to work and flip burgers out of the kindness of your heart. Oh you may get burned on the grill, but we will still not pay you.

Reserve officers should be outlawed.

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