September 20, 2014

Elyria
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Topic over toast: How to curb crime in Elyria

ELYRIA — Things could be a lot better in Edith Wilford’s neighborhood.

Sitting on the front porch of her modest Seventh Street home recently, Wilford was enjoying the warmth of summer.

Aside from the sunshine she was taking in, she was also forced to take in the view of a group of teenagers trading marijuana for money and rolling the illegal substance into cigarettes for smoking.

JASON MILLER / CHRONICLE
South Elyria Neighborhood Development members W.J. Campbell (left) and Edith Wilford (left center) meet with Elyria officers Lt. Michael Dussel (right center) and Capt. Duane Whitely during a community breakfast Wednesday.

Staring at the transaction conducted in broad daylight made her feel helpless.

“What do we do? Who do we call?” she asked police Wednesday. “They don’t care that I see them.”

Wilford, who moved to her home 22 years ago when her oldest child was just 7 weeks old, sought answers Wednesday at a community breakfast with police because moving is just not an option, she said.

“We can’t go anywhere,” she said.

The setting for the discussion was simple — coffee, doughnuts and a folding table to sit around.

But the topics of discussion were anything but trivial to those involved — community members and police officers, who met with the hopes of hammering out ways they can work together to improve the quality of life in the south end of the city.

Elyria police Capt. Duane Whitely said he hopes residents continue banding together to take back their community. The issues at heart are not just burglaries, attempted murders or rapes. Residents want to get rid of the crimes that suck the life out of a neighborhood such as vandalism, loitering and drug transactions that are done out in the open.

“Call us,” Whitely said. “Even if the deed is done by the time officers arrive, they can start looking for the suspects based on a description.”

Police action starts with a phone call, he said. Officers can’t be everywhere all the time, but they will come when they can.

“It takes a community working together, but we have to get back to that,” said Chris Baker, executive director of South Elyria Neighborhood Development. “We lost that when we lost porch sitters and people retreated back inside their homes. But we need to have community members looking out for the community.”

SEND organized Wednesday’s breakfast and hopes it will be the first of many to take place this school year.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 653-6268 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.