December 20, 2014

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National Night Out initiative a step to improve police, community relations in south Lorain

From left, Tim Carrion, Marcus Atkinson and the Rev. Angel Arroyo walk Tuesday along state Route 57 in Lorain, where they plan to host their first National Night Out against crime. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

From left, Tim Carrion, Marcus Atkinson and the Rev. Angel Arroyo walk Tuesday along state Route 57 in Lorain, where they plan to host their first National Night Out against crime. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Four hours will not radically improve relations between south Lorain residents and police, but organizers of Lorain’s first participation in the National Night Out against crime Aug. 5 hope to make inroads.

The Rev. Angel Arroyo, Marcus Atkinson and Tim Carrion said they chose Pearl Street between East 28th and East 30th streets in south Lorain to hold the event not only because it is a vibrant part of Lorain, but also because it has been hurt by crime. With 10,335 police calls last year, south Lorain finished third in the Police Department’s five-district coverage area.

The neighborhood also has had several homicides in recent years. A community garden at the intersection of Pearl and East 29th is named after homicide victim Moises Velez, near where he was fatally shot in 2011. Two men were convicted in the killing.

Arroyo, of Dotcom Ministries, a small group that focuses on finding missing children, gang intervention and reducing recidivism, said two unsolved homicide victims were friends of his. By improving relations between police and residents, Arroyo hopes residents may provide police with tips to solve the homicides.

“A big thing about the National Night Out is filling the (communication) gap between the community and law enforcement,” said Arroyo, adding that he has taken part in National Night Out events in Boston, Cleveland and Providence, R.I. “This is the perfect opportunity.”

Police, who plan to take part in the event, said they have been trying to improve relations. The department held community meetings in each of the five districts earlier this year to expand outreach and give residents a better idea of crime in their neighborhoods, and how officers are fighting it.

Nonetheless, Atkinson and Carrion said police — who in April acquired a surplus armored vehicle from the military like the kind used in Iraq and Afghanistan — are seen by some as an occupying force, rather than a crime-fighting partner. Providing tips is seen by some residents as “snitching” on friends and neighbors.

“In this particular community, there’s a huge distrust of law enforcement,” said Atkinson, a community activist and promoter. “They grow up not wanting to be police officers and serve their community.”

Carrion, an insurance salesman and president of the Coalition on Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress, said he hopes the event will lead to future initiatives. In addition to improving relations, Carrion said the event is a chance to salute police for a sometimes difficult and thankless job.

“Something like this allows us to come together as a community and truly show that we’re all on the same team,” he said. “We all have to do this together to make this place the best place possible.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.

Crime Prevention

  • Aug. 5 will mark Lorain’s first year taking part in National Night Out, an initiative that seeks to reduce crime by fostering better relations between police and the public. The National Association of Town Watch began the event in 1984, the nonprofit group’s website reports. About 37.8 million people in more than 16,000 communities in Canada and the U.S. participate annually.
  • In Lorain, the event will include children’s activities, informational booths, music and speakers, organizers said. Groups scheduled to participate include Big Brothers/Big Sisters, LifeCare Ambulance, The Nord Center and Lorain Police. For more information, call the Rev. Angel Arroyo at (440) 258-3023 or Tim Carrion at (440) 258-9968.