On Thursday, block watch members from the east side flooded Longfellow Middle School for the first of several meetings with police to discuss creating a better connection between the department and the public.
“We’re trying to be their eyes and ears,” East Side Block Watch member J.R. Lee said.
In an hour-long presentation, Lorain police Sgt. Mike Failing, Detective Rick Soto and Police Chief Cel Rivera discussed ways that average citizens and block watch members can work with police.
Failing talked about a new system where citizens can send anonymous text tips to police dispatchers, a website called “ReportIt” that allows anyone to make a list of their belongings in case they are ever pawned and online police reports, which the public can use to keep track of crimes in their area.
Thursday’s presentation was the first of five that the Police Department plans to hold around the city.
The goal is to make the department more accessible to residents who want to keep an eye out for their neighborhoods, Failing said.
For block watch members and police alike, the effort is a good one, albeit long overdue.
“I know you’re frustrated, I know we neglected you,” Failing said, adding that these meetings with block watch members and residents will hopefully be a new start to their relationship.
Some block watch members at the meeting Thursday expressed concern that police are busy focusing on the “big issues” like catching drug traffickers rather than smaller offenses.
“Sometimes it doesn’t look like anything,” Failing said, assuring residents that while police investigate many smaller crimes “behind the scenes,” their efforts often go unnoticed.
Police anticipate the meeting Thursday would be the largest of the five presentations. They plan to hold the same presentation all around Lorain, Failing said.
“We (want to) get the community engaged,” he added.