For Holly Gusky, leader of Block Watch 420-C in East Toledo, the approaching summer weather may be looked at as a good and bad thing.
Although winter heating bills will soon disappear, the switch to warm weather also means a possible rise in crime.
“We have a lot of kids walking the streets in the summer,” Gusky said. “We have a lot of gangs, many not from this area, who start fights with each other. The Greenwood and Potter area seems to be neutral territory for them and we see the fighting in the summer.”
Gusky said that her block watch area, which encompasses Woodville Road, Oak Street, Starr Avenue up to Broadway, not only sees upswings in crime during the warmer months, but also during the holidays.
“Crime comes and goes around here,” Gusky said. “In one week, we have had three cars with the windows smashed. At Thanksgiving time, people broke in and stole TV’s. We had a big rash of crime during the holidays even though we are in a low income area.”
To help police deal with crime, Gusky and her co-leader, Tony Sarno, have decided to complete a few projects in the area this year. The group merged with the Victorian Hilltop Coalition, lead by Gail Wahl, a few years ago, and work on projects and activities with them as well, Gusky said.
“We will be working throughout the summer putting addresses on the utility poles in the alleys,” Gusky said. “We are going to begin marking the alleys. When the police are on foot in the alleys they have a hard time trying to figure out the addresses in the alleys. We are going to spray paint addresses on the poles in back.”
The block watch group is hoping that neighbors in the area begin to help patrol their own streets.
“Everyone needs to help protect themselves with summer coming,” she said. “I have been told that the Guardian Angels are walking around the Liberty and East Broadway area. I am not sure how people feel about that but I guess that anybody out walking in the neighborhood to help protect the area is good. We have so many elderly and single females in the area. They don’t go out at night, they shop in the morning, because they are afraid.”
Gusky suggests that every neighbor adopt an elderly neighbor and check on them regularly.
“The seniors are having real problems with the new garbage cans,” Gusky said. “Try to help them. Check on them. Maybe you can help get groceries for them or cut their lawn. Just keep an eye on them.”
Gusky also suggests that everyone, including seniors, check underneath their cars while approaching them, adding that car thieves have been known to hide under vehicles and slash the ankles of the vehicle owners in order to get a hold of a dropped purse or the car keys.
“Also make sure to look in the backseat of the car before you get in,” she added. “A lot of people leave their car doors open because they feel that if someone wants something in their car, at least they will not have to deal with a damaged window as well.”
Gusky also said that in order to protect themselves and their homes from being broken into, residents need to vary their daily routines.
“Do not go the same way to work every day,” Gusky said. “They (criminals) watch your schedule. A lot of these punks are out at 5 a.m. They are watching and keeping track. Do something different. They are good at what they do because they take the time to keep track of what is going on.”
Other tips include destroying the boxes that large screen televisions and other electronic equipment comes in when you purchase a big ticket item.
If residents get a flat screen television, keep it away from the window and doors,” she explained. “These kids are walking up and down the street all day long. Take the boxes, cut them up and place them in garbage bags, in the house. Also, please make sure you put away lawnmowers, gas grills, trimmers and kids’ bikes in the garage.”
Gusky also suggests using your car alarm feature on your key chain if you hear anything suspicious going on outside.
“Keep it with you,” she said. “If you hear something going on outside, hit the alarm. Also, keep an eye on each other’s homes. Communication is very important. And make sure to get a good description of the suspect including if they wear glasses, their height and weight as well as the color of their clothing. “We need to help the police as much as possible.”
Andrea Martin, leader of Garfield Block Watch 410-G, agreed with Gusky’s suggestions.
“We have had some break-ins in the neighborhood but we are not hearing of a whole lot of crime yet,” Martin said. “You have to have good neighbors look out for each other and their homes.”
Martin also suggested curbing tendencies to update everyone on what you are doing on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
“Be smart about Facebook,” Martin warned. “Don’t let everyone know that you are gone to the grocery store much less vacation. People know people on there and that is just too much information to give.”
The block watch group will meet Wednesday, May 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at Garfield Elementary School. Everyone is welcome to attend. The group will not meet during the summer.
“We need as many people as possible to join the group,” Martin said. “You do not have to come to the meetings to be a member. We have a small, active core group, but we have about 40 people involved total. Many do not come to the meetings because they don’t want people to know they are calling on the drug houses, etc.”
Block Watch 420-C meets the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at Martin Luther Church, located at 602 Nevada. Everyone is welcome to attend the meetings.