NORTH TOLEDO -- If you drove down Cherry Street on Tuesday night, you probably saw it. A huge hot-air balloon and hundreds of porch lights glowed brightly in the evening darkness to show solidarity in the fight against crime. And if you believe the latest crime statistics from the FBI, it's working.
In front of dozens of Block Watch members and residents of Vistula Manor, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner delivered welcome news. FBI stats show crime was down 14.5% in the first four months of 2007, compared to the same time last year -- with just 6 murders so far this year. "If we stay on that, we will break a city of Toledo record," said Finkbeiner. "[The record stands for] the history of the city of Toledo, or at least since they began to compile those numbers."
Police and Block Watch members got the credit for the downturn in crime. "[Block Watch members] can tell us what's going on on the streets, they can tell us who the bad guys are," said Michael Dearth, the citywide Block Watch chairman. "Some people think of us as snitches, but I tend to think of us as being part of the solution not part of the problem."
In the nearly six months since Toledo Police detective Keith Dressell was shot and killed in a confrontation with a suspect, a Block Watch group in north Toledo has been working harder than ever with police. "One person starts something, another person does it, another person does it another person does it. So if we can keep the domino effect going, eventually we're going to have the whole area back to where it was ten years ago." said Bill McCauley, the Near North Block Watch leader.
Police agreed. "The crime rate is really going down over there and our relationship with the citizens over there has been very much improved," said Sgt. Joe Heffernan of the Toledo Police Department.
Tuesday was a night to celebrate, but the Block Watch leaders know, much more work must still be done.