November 24, 2014

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Block watches a vital help to Elyria police

ELYRIA — In just the first two months of the year, Elyria police officers have responded to 4,643 calls for service, written 799 case reports, issued 551 citations and made 216 arrests.

Police Chief Duane Whitely said in years prior, officers knew what crimes were happening where on a year-to-year basis, but the increased use of crime analysis software has given the department a near-real-time snapshot of crime in the city that is shaping the way police allocate resources.

Later this month, he will share the statistics garnered from the department’s crime analysis software at the city’s second annual safety summit.

The summit, which was well attended last year by block watch captains and members, will allow neighborhood watch groups to learn the crime patterns of their neighborhoods and how they can help officers. It is set for 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. March 23 in the Northwood Junior High School cafeteria.

It will be open to current block watch participants as well as individuals who are interested in starting a block watch.

“When done right, block watches are very effective and important tools to police departments,” Whitely said. “Trying to catch crimes in progress is near impossible. What helps us is when neighbors call us. An effective block watch is nothing more than neighbors looking out for neighbors.”

Mayor Holly Brinda said the upcoming summit will pick up where the October session left off. Attendees will learn new crime-prevention strategies as well as hear from a block watch organizer from the greater Columbus area.

But the main goal is to use the meeting to identify three citywide safety goals and two neighborhood-level safety goals with associated strategies for both.

“The safety plan will be used to leverage foundation financial support and other resources to help support the efforts of the individual neighborhood block watch groups, guide police support of the individual block watch organizations and focus city-wide crime prevention and intervention strategies,” Brinda said.

Brinda would like residents to set their own goals for their neighborhoods.

“It’s the people at the neighborhood level that are making this happen,” she said. “We are trying to be a support to the block watches that support the Police Department.”

Elyria has nine active block watches, up from six in 2012.

Kelly Johnson, who heads the West Elyria Block Watch, said she started her group five years ago after her car was broken into, and she wanted to find a way to prevent similar crimes in her neighborhood. Since then, she has found that the more she can work with the police, the more effective her group’s efforts.

She attended last year’s summit and learned about a surge in home burglaries and how to spot suspicious behavior. Since then, Whitely said, 75 percent of the burglary arrests made have come from tips from neighbors.

“They realize we need some help, too, and this summit is the right way to do it,” Johnson said.

Block Watch info

The second annual Elyria Safety Summit is open to block watch members or anyone interested in starting a group in their neighborhood. Registration by March 15 is required as food will be served. Register by calling the mayor’s office at (440) 326-1402. Anyone interested in starting a block watch should call Kelly Johnson at (440) 281-3870 or visit www.blockwatchelyria.com.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.