East side leaders ask residents to ‘lead the change’
If you live in East Toledo, and want to attend a free family event with prizes and food, then Block Watch leaders want you to attend their block party.
East Toledo Block Watch leaders organized an informational event to be held this Saturday, September 14, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Marina District.
“It’s to bring our families and friends together to show them that there are Block Watches in the area,” said Lucinda Kinnan, East Toledo’s 410-N Block Watch leader.
It promises to pay off for those attending thanks to the prizes and a chance to enter a raffle — just by showing up. There is no admission fee, no fee to enter the raffle, which will give away an ADT Security System among other prizes, and even the food is on the house.
Leaders representing the eight block watches in East Toledo just want to get residents, including new and transient residents, homeowners and renters, involved to take back neighborhoods reeling from crime and housing issues.
Toledo Area Block Watch Coordinator Tracy Ellis said it is also important to get youth and families led by young adults involved, something that is often missing at community meetings.
East Toledo Family Center community builder Jodi Gross added that a lot of residents do not even realize block watch organizations exist.
Gross said it also is about advancing the “One Voice for East Toledo” initiative, too, by bringing everyone together.
“While we believe that Block Watch is important, we want people to understand that other mechanisms, other neighborhood organizations such as Birmingham Development Corporation, that are important,” Gross said.
They’ve titled the event, “Lead the Change, Be the Change.”
“There was a targeted initiative by the police department, and after that initiative, we decided that based on the participation of block watch groups we wanted to strengthen them in the East Toledo area,” Ellis said.
The event will be held at a tent set up at 1701 Front Street, which is near the Toledo Marina, next to the Col. James. M. Schoonmaker museum freighter and the new National Museum of the Great Lakes currently under renovation. Partners include the Toledo Police Department, One Voice for East Toledo, East Toledo Family Center, and Toledo Neighborhood Block Watch.
Eyes and ears of police
Representatives from the police and different Block Watches will be available to answer questions. Kinnan stresses that there are two neighborhoods in the 43605 zip code that have no Block Watch.
“It’s to get everybody involved to be the eyes and ears of the police department when we have things going on to help them out as well. Without us, crime will continue if we do not help to help participate on cracking down on the crime, the drugs, and the gang activity,” Kinnan said. “If you’re not involved, the things are going to still continue.”
Ellis said, “You know, the police have never been where they can do this on their own. It’s going to take a collaborative effort of people living in these neighborhoods watching out for each other who are reporting suspicious and criminal activity and they have to be consistent.”
Kinnan will soon become sector leader for all eight East Toledo block watch organizations, taking over for Robin Sopko. Kinnan got involved after her home was broken on three different occasions and windows were busted out of her car.
“I just got to the point where I said, ‘Enough is enough.’ I needed to do something to protect myself in my community,” Kinnan said. “I contacted the police department and got involved with it, and I have about 300-some homes in my area, and I get out there and they know who I am.”
Ellis said there will also be conversation about new technologies and other resources at the block party.
“Block Watch is about involvement, and we want them to understand the benefit of what being involved will have on their community,” Ellis said. “The primary function of Block Watch is crime reduction — but it’s that and it’s a lot more.
“It’s neighborhood development, neighborhood improvement, it’s the relationships of people in the community and your neighbors that live around you,” Ellis continued. “It’s education on how to keep your home or your apartment safe.
“It’s community building. All of these things are important to improve. Everyone wants to live in a good neighborhood —an environment where they can be safe and we want people to have input. One of the issues that is prevalent in our neighborhoods is involvement and people feeling like they don’t have any input. They do, and this is the way to have that to express what their needs are and get those needs met, is to get together in a forum like Block Watch in an organized way so people can take control and have control of their own neighborhood. That’s the way it should be.
“It belongs to the community — it belongs to the people and they ought to have a say to what happens on their street and their surrounding area. This involvement is critical to the maintenance of our community, and now more than it has ever been, even in terms of crime reduction.
Ellis, who now lives near the University of Toledo and has been involved with Block Watch for over 20 years, is working on an initiative called Community Partners for Block Watch, which will involve businesses, schools, churches, and agencies.
“These entities play a role in the Block Watch effort and we want them to commit to encouraging and supporting their neighbors in the community where they have their businesses,” Ellis said. “(They) have to be visually supportive, provide resources when necessary, and we don’t want the groups to be out there thinking on their own. All of these different entities in the community have a role to play, so we want them to be a strong source of supporting Block Watch. This is going to help to build, and this one of our goals to take it to the next level.