Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins is bringing his T-Town Initiative Project to East Toledo neighborhoods.
“We are going to be changing something that is long overdue, and that is how we address blight in the neighborhoods,” Collins told 150 residents and community leaders at a town hall meeting hosted by the East Toledo Family Center.
East Toledo is the second community to begin the T-Town initiative, following only Point Place.
In collaboration with the Toledo Police Department and the East Toledo community, the city will begin a clean-up project focusing on McKinley, Butler, Navarre, and Earl Streets on July 24 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Volunteers meet at 444 Earl Street at 8:30 a.m. and will then begin a clean-up of alleyways, sidewalks and vacant lots.
Jodi Gross, Family Center community builder and leader of the One Voice for East Toledo initiative, says volunteers are needed. She stresses that if you can’t work the entire time, just work a couple hours.
Adult and high school teams are needed, and teams of volunteers representing neighbors, businesses, or other groups are welcome. She says equipment and supplies are provided.
The city will provide resident volunteers with gloves, vests, tongs and bags. The items will be available for distribution at the Toledo Police Mobile Command Post. Additionally, dumpsters, garbage trucks, lawn cutting equipment, and materials to perform board-ups and graffiti removal will also be available, Police Chief William Moton told residents.
Gross says she has seen it work in other neighborhoods.
“This is a good opportunity for all of East Toledo to work together to take back our community as a whole,” Gross said. “It will prove that we have to work together to make a better East Toledo community.”
The mayor says the city plays its role, also, by having community resource officers teaming up with nuisance and code inspectors to walk the streets looking for properties that are in violation of zoning laws. However, he says it’s important for the neighborhood to remain involved.
“If we dispatch our resources to clean up an alley, say at 123 Apple Street. And they clean up everything that one would consider to be unacceptable — refrigerators that don’t work with doors off them, washing machines, tires, paint, rats, bags of trash, and we devote the resources to clean it up, because the city can do this,” Collins said.
“But, how long before the alley returns to that condition that it was before we arrived there? Let’s be realistic — it’s not going to stay clean. It may not take one day, but within a week you will start seeing it.
“There was a theory that came out of Harvard that makes sense, and it was called ‘broken windows’ written by Dr. George Kelly, and he says under this human experiment, is that you take a car and you park it in a neighborhood that is blight-free, and you knock out a window and you flatten a tire and you walk away.
“What is the condition of this car two days later, a week later? What is the condition of this neighborhood two weeks later? Because there has been a disrespectful act in a neighborhood, and that becomes the new normal. That cannot happen.
“Because I assure that if the neighbors reach out and clean this alley on Apple Street, if you’ve got sweat equity in the game, the next guy somebody comes in there with a truck dumping off tires, you are going to get the license number because that person just insulted you. Because you were the one who was out there working and you don’t appreciate the disrespect that has been suggested that you should take. That’s what it is going to take.”
Moton sent a letter to residents saying resources will be available to address residents’ complaints and concerns.
“It is our hope that through joint problem solving you will feel safer and experience a greater quality of life in your neighborhood,” Moton wrote.
Moton and Collins added that another advantage of the T-Town initiative is that it is designed to reduce crime in neighborhoods.
Moton told residents they can expect to see community service officers and code enforcement inspectors walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors to identify and address concerns. Collins said officers will even get out of their police cruisers, walk up and down sidewalks, and introduce themselves to get to know residents and business people.
“A city that isn’t blight-free is not a city that is going to be crime free,” Collins said. “It’s very, very simple and very basic. Basically, with Chief Moton and our new policing block, you’re going to see changes within the structure of how the city is going to be handled, and one of the changes goes back to the fundamental foundations of law enforcement.”
“When Chief Moton said, ‘We are the city, too,’ what that implies is when the officers, and make no mistake about it, it is the uniform officer who is the backbone of the police department.
“So, we’re going back to a concept called ‘beat integrity.’ What that concept provides is that the officers who are assigned to East Toledo — that will be their consistent assignment. It goes back to an era of policing that Gary Dunn and I were exposed to back in our early days as policemen.
“You were given the responsibility for neighborhoods and you knew the neighborhood and you knew those people within the neighborhood, and you gained the trust of those people in the neighborhood. That is a big part of it because policing without trust doesn’t exist. You must have the trust and confidence of the neighborhood in order to make the neighborhood work, so we’re going back to that.”