October 23, 2014

Elyria
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Oberlin confronts crimes by teens

OBERLIN – A recent crime wave in this quiet college town has scared townspeople and college students alike.

Within the space of a month, there have been three shootings, two armed robberies, a fire in a school and a fight outside of a dormitory at Oberlin College. While police have made arrests in most of the incidents or at least have suspects, the violence still has comunity members on edge. Many crimes involve teenagers and people are concerned and willing to help, Oberlin police Capt. Clif Barnes said.

It`s early in the brain-storming process, but adults could be used to mentor youth and arrange worthwhile activities, Barnes said.

“We`re trying to see what we can do to put the brake on the violence – maybe get the families involved,” Barnes said.

The recent criminal activity has caught the attention of Oberlin School Superintendent Geoffrey Andrews, who met Friday with City Manager Eric Norenberg, Oberlin City Council President Daniel Gardener and Oberlin police Officer Kevin Scalli, who is assigned to the schools.

“We`re talking about ways to engage the community,” Andrews said.

The Oberlin community has reached out before to troubled youth and it can do it again, said the Rev. Mary Hammond of Peace Community Church.

Hammond recalled the effort in the 1990s when there was a concern about gangs in Oberlin.

“Everyone`s concerned – how can you not be concerned?” Hammond said.

The Rev. Robert Hooker of First United Methodist Church said the issues are complex, but churches are ready to do their part.

“You get an image of Oberlin as a tranquil little place, but society today is very complex and some of the negative images in our culture are lifted up,” he said.

The crime wave even victimized the Boys and Girls Club of Lorain County, which was burglarized along with a school for troubled youths, said Mike Conibear, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club.

Conibear said police made arrests in the case, which involved the theft of cameras and computers from the school as well as miscellaneous items from the Boys and Girls Club, including computer programs to design music.

Conibear urged parents to get their children involved.

“The No. 1 reason the kids come to the Boys and Girls Club is because of staff – they`re surrounded by positive mentors,” Conibear said.

Norenberg, who became city manager several weeks ago, said the recent crime wave is troubling, but he`s glad that the community wants to take action.

“One of the greatest things about the community of Oberlin is the vast number of residents who are willing to help on a variety of issues,” Norenberg said.

Barnes, the police captain, said the recent spike in crime reminds him of the mid-1990s when drug activity seemed to lead to a variety of property and violent crimes.

“It`s the violence that concerns people,” Barnes said. “It doesn`t make any difference whether it`s a gun or a knife – it`s that people want to harm someone.”

Oberlin police Detective Victor Ortiz said a drug debt is suspected as a motive in the Nov. 1 shooting on Groveland Street, and revenge was the motive behind the Nov. 10 shooting on South Pleasant Street.
Police have made arrests in connection with two of the three shootings and have suspects in both armed robberies, according to Ortiz.

Police plan to refer a teenage boy to Lorain County Juvenile Court Tuesday in connection with the armed robbery at the IGA, Ortiz said.

Ortiz said police have “strong suspects” in the robbery of the two female students, which netted about $50.

While overall crime figures don`t show an increase – police filled out 878 police reports in 2005, 1,008 in 2006 and back to 750 so far this year – the recent crime is still alarming, Barnes said.

Property crime tends to spike in Oberlin around the holidays, and police arrested several Oberlin
youth and their relatives from Columbus in connection with several armed robberies last November, Barnes said.

Warnings have gone out to Oberlin College students about a number of the incidents and the college is monitoring the situation, according to Oberlin College spokesman Scott Wargo.

“We`re concerned about what is happening because of the safety of students,” Wargo said.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.

CRIME WAVE
Oct. 11 – Fight outside Oberlin College dining hall; a police report stated the fight involved a knife and a Cleveland man threatened to get a gun from a car and “Blow all of you away.”
Oct. 11 – A teen riding in a car with an open window reported being shot in the face by a pellet from a BB gun at the Pleasant Street Park.
Oct. 28 – Two female Oberlin College students robbed at gunpoint on West Vine Street by three males on bicycles about a block from the police station.
Oct. 29 – A man with a gun tries to rob a woman shopping at Oberlin IGA Foodliner on East Lorain Street, but the robber is forced to walk away empty handed.
Nov. 1 – Man fires a gun five times into a home on Groveland Street after demanding money from people he knew inside the house.
Nov. 10 – Teen shot in the back and leg while fleeing from a 15-year-old Elyria youth who was shooting at another teen after a party at the Masonic Lodge, 89 S. Pleasant St.
Nov. 10 – Someone fired a round from a small caliber gun into the wall of Downtown Pizza on South Main Street.