Residents and City Officials Sound Off About Crime At Neighborhood Watch Meeting
Nearly 70 people attended the first Neighborhood Excellence Initiative at Preston Elementary Wednesday night to discuss keeping crime out of their neighborhoods
If Cuyahoga Falls residents want to live in a safe community, what's keeping them from reporting crime in their neighborhoods?
Police, court and city officials echoed one another Wednesday night in answering that question at the first Neighborhood Excellence Initiative meeting.
It's simple: They're scared to speak up.
"They're afraid to call the police because they don't want it to come back on them; they just don't know what to do" said Heather Shaw, a resident activist who's tired of seeing drug and crime activity in Cuyahoga Falls. Shaw, also a blogger on Cuyahoga Falls Patch, orchestrated the night's community awareness meeting — and more will follow.
Over the past several weeks, Shaw has spread the word about the initiative through Patch blogs and Facebook updates in an effort to get more people interested and involved.
About 70 Cuyahoga Falls residents who are concerned about the safety of their community came out that night to Preston Elementary School. They listened to advice from officials at the Cuyahoga Falls police department and Summit County courts as well as city council members.
Police Chief Tom Pozza reminded residents that 50,000 people live in the city of Cuyahoga Falls, and that means 100,000 eyes can be looking out for crime in addition to the police officers.
"Our police department is only so big and we serve you," Pozza said. "What we need you to do is to be aware and be willing to give the police department a call when you see something suspicious."
Follow your intuition, he advised.
"Everybody has intuition. Everybody has that feeling inside of them that something just ain't right."
He urged residents to call the department, even when they don't want to leave their names. Anonymous tips always are welcome. Even if residents think it might not be a matter for police, it's better to be safe than sorry.
And besides, Cuyahoga Falls police love to catch the bad buy, he said. He brought up a recent arrest after a knifepoint robbery at Little Caesars Pizza to make his point.
"When we caught the guy a block away, our guys were high-fiving each other," "No, really. It's just something they love to do."
Stow Municipal Court Judge Kim R. Hoover says he hears from some people that Cuyahoga Falls is "the meth capital of Summit County." In fact, meth lab busts tripled — going from six to 19 — in the city from 2011 to 2012.
But, he told residents that's not because crime is out of control. It might be because police are more vigilant than ever in cracking down on crime.
What's troublesome, though, is that those who are busted are often turned back to the community instead of serving a jail sentence.
"There are 540,000 people in Summit County, and more than a third live in our municipal court district," Hoover said. "How many beds in a 250-bed facility at the Summit County Jail are reserved for that section? Eighty? Ninety? (It's) 10. Akron? 110."
Because of that, more convicts are being sentenced to probation instead of a jail term.
"You think that's not frustrating for police?" he asked. "I can't imagine how you feel in the neighborhoods."
Diana Colavecchio — former Ward 5 councilwoman, now Stow Clerk of Courts — urged Cuyahoga Falls residents to keep the discussion going to keep crime out of their neighborhoods.
"Keep the meetings going. Keep the movement going. I think that is the right way to change the city, one person at a time," she said.
The next Neighborhood Excellence Initiative meeting for Ward 4 is from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. April 3 at Rocco's Pizza banquet room 1053 Portage Trail. Meetings for Ward 2 and 3 have yet to be scheduled.