ELYRIA — From bands of kids roaming the streets to an unprovoked attack of a homeless man, crime is increasing in one Elyria neighborhood and it has police intensifying their efforts to catch those responsible.
Neighbors, too, are banding together with a vow not to surrender Furnace Street to further crime.
The last straw for 53-year-old Susan Miller came a few days ago when she had to wash blood from the sidewalk in front of her home.
At around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, police found Michael Bair, 50, standing on the sidewalk. The homeless man was intoxicated and blood was streaming down his face. He was holding a crumpled sweatshirt to the side of his head and would not say anything to officers other than, “help me.”
Bair was taken to EMH Elyria Medical Center and, while there, told officers he was walking down the street when three men tried to rob him and began beating his head with a baseball bat. They ran off when he told them he was homeless and had nothing to take, he told police.
He sustained facial and neck fractures. He was transported to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland where he wasn’t treated and released by Thursday night.
“When we first got here, I would take my grandkids to walk around the block or play in the front yard. We were cautious, but it was quiet,” Miller said.
“Now, it’s to the point where I don’t want my grandchildren at my home any more. They are from Berlin Heights and went home talking about the bloody man in front of grandma’s house.”
Police Chief Duane Whitely said he does not want to speculate too much about what is going on in the neighborhood, but did say that several incidents in recent months reveal a pattern he does not like.
“We’re talking about felonious assaults and robberies,” Whitely said. “Those are very serious crimes, but we can’t say they are all random right now.”
The Neighborhood Impact Unit is leading the investigation into the incidents. Whitely said officers are combing police reports to pinpoint just how widespread the surge in crime is and when it started.
Furnace Street, less than a mile long, runs from Lake Avenue to West River Road North. With a mix of owner-occupied, rental and vacant homes historically has not been the quietest street in the city. Residents will admit drug deals, shootings and break-ins will happen occasionally in the 2nd Ward neighborhood.
But a very active block watch has managed to push back against the attempts of criminals. But the latest string of incidents is threatening to undo its work.
By her count, there have been six incidents she can only describe as beatings in the area since Easter, said Holly Huff, head of the Furnace/Cascade Neighborhood Block Watch.
The most recent, the attack on Bair, was by far the worst.
“I never want to see something like that again — he was badly beaten and bleeding on the sidewalk in front of one of my neighbors’ house,” she said. “This has to stop. The severity of this and the group mentality — they are getting into a group and beating on people.”
For Melissa Langford, the day she knew her neighborhood had changed for the worst came in late April. She sent her teenage son to a nearby store. When he returned, he collapsed on the front porch and told his mother he had been jumped by a group of boys.
Langford said her son later was taken to the hospital, where she learned his arm was broken and he would need surgery to repair the damage. He has two screws in his arm now.
“Just thinking about that day still makes me fear what could have happened,” she said. “My son blames himself, and I blame myself because I’m his mom. I shouldn’t have let him go.”
Langford said there was nothing her son did to provoke the attack, although he thinks he recognized his attackers from around the neighborhood and school.
Huff said she believes a lot of the incidents can be tied to a group of juveniles. The attitude of teenagers looking for trouble can be scary to residents.
She has seen neighborhood watch participation grow as a result.
“People want to know how to get involved,” she said. “We like our neighborhood too much here. We are not going to just give up.”
Whitely said he doesn’t want residents to give up, either. Instead, he wants them to start speaking out.
“Sometimes a name is all we need,” he said. “If people are scared, that’s understandable. We can work with that and people can call us anonymously with information.”
Furnace Street incidents
100 block Furnace St.
- 2:37 a.m. Jan.1 – Two males fighting in the street.
- 9:36 p.m. March 5 – Caller advises someone just threw a rock at his house and juveniles are walking though area.
- 4 p.m., March 28 – The owner of a vacant home finds a front picture window broken.
- 8:50 p.m. March 2 – Woman calls to report what sounded like a gunshot.
- 9:20 a.m., April 2 – Male found lying in driveway and taken to hospital.
200 block Furnace St.
- 5:15 p.m., March 13 – Woman calls to report someone threw a snowball at her home and cracked a window.
- 3 p.m., March 17 – Two teenage girls walking home are attacked by another group of girls throwing rocks and bottles.
- 1:15 p.m., April 16 – Domestic violence issue between husband and wife results in the arrest of a man.
- 11:30 p.m., April 16 – Woman calls to report someone egged the window of her home.
- 6:11 p.m., April 24 – 15-year-old kid punched in face repeatedly by a 14-year-old juvenile, who was later arrested for assault.
- 9 p.m., April 27 – 16-year-old kid jumped near 200 block of Furnace and sustained a broken arm.
- 2:35 p.m., May 15 – 50-year-old homeless man jumped by gang of men while walking down street.
300 block Furnace St.
- 10 a.m., Feb. 16 – Man arrested a charged with domestic violence.
- 12:53 a.m., March 12 – Approximately 50 juveniles outside on street after a party and caller believes they were getting ready to fight.
- 5:11 a.m., March 13 – Intoxicated woman punched man in the face.
- 10:28 p.m., March 30 – Woman calls to report a group of juveniles came on her porch and were attempting to fight her son.
- 9:20 p.m., April 8 – Teenager sitting on porch reports a group of others juveniles were yelling at him to come fight.
- 4:35 p.m., April 13 – Two men get into a fight after arguing inside a home.
- 4:45 p.m., April 18 – Group of men with two pitbulls wanting to fight.
- 6:37 p.m., April 27 – Group of children from Mendel Court were threatening to shoot a man and his family, but left before police arrived.
- 12:40 a.m., April 27 – Caller reports three men in black hooded sweatshirts breaking all of the windows and slashing all of the tires on her car.
- 10 p.m. May 12 – Two tires slashed on a rental car parked in driveway.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.