By Joe Gorman
Police say the city will be checking to see who owns the property behind a downtown parking lot where homeless people gather, after officers were called to investigate a disturbance there Tuesday morning.
Police were called to the area about 11:30 a.m. for a report of a group of homeless people smoking marijuana and fighting across the street from the St. Vincent DePaul Society soup kitchen on Front Street.
When officers arrived, they found no illegal activity but there was a group of people in a grassy area at the back of the parking lot sitting on chairs amid a pile of garbage, reports said. Among them was a woman with a 4-month-old baby. A trash pile contained numerous empty bottles of liquor and beer and food containers.
The chairs were property of the soup kitchen across the street, reports said. A representative of the soup kitchen told police it did not want the chairs back, reports said.
A crew from the street department was called to haul away the trash and the chairs. Reports said the supervisor of the crew will find out who owns the property or if the city owns it, to see if no loitering signs can be posted, reports said.
Reports noted that the area has received more calls lately for disturbances as the area has attracted more people.
The area was also the scene of a homicide May 28, when a homeless man, Jerry Syster, 55, died after drowning in a puddle of water.
Police said Syster was arguing with another homeless man, 40-year-old Jayjuane Hardy, and Hardy punched Syster and knocked him out.
Syster fell into the puddle, which is how he died, reports said.
Hardy was arrested in Syster’s murder, and another homeless man, Robert Reed, 52, was charged with obstruction of justice for a false statement police said he made during the murder investigation.
Both of their cases are pending in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.