News 11 Special Report: Taking Back our Neighborhoods

News 11's Jonathan Walsh delivered this report on February 12:

TOLEDO -- If someone went missing in your neighborhood, what would you do?

In our continuing series "Taking back our neighborhoods," one west Toledo area shares a plan for just that scenario. Their block watch takes its job one step further than just watching the streets. They know a missing child or elderly person could be just a phone call away from being found.

Dave Swartzlander sits in his home office in front of search maps for his neighborhood. He has a phone list of people he needs to call if someone goes missing.

The program is necessary, says block watch chair Michael Dearth.

"In response to a kidnapping that had taken place before we had started the block watch, we wanted to have a plan to get ahead of that situation that if it should ever come up again we wouldn't have to wait for the police to get there," Swartzlander explained.

Just last month, Swartzlander heard an 11-year-old girl was missing in his neighborhood. He started making calls.

"You don't know if a crime has been committed or not and, of course, that is the essence -- trying to get things done as fast as possible," Swartzlander said.

The plan includes arming neighbors with walkie talkies, checking the nearby creek and walking the streets and yards.

"I passed a lady and a group of teenagers on the corner asking them for their help and roamed the area a little bit and crisscrossed with the patrols. We had two patrol cars out here," Swartzlander said. Eventually police found the girl safe and sound.

The folks who started the watch nine years ago are interested in keeping their neighborhood a good place to live. Neighbors like Linda Wilson and her kids say they notice that effort.

"It lets everybody know that we're watching and looking out for each other and if you're not belonging in the neighborhood we're going to ask you what you're doing here," Wilson said.

"It makes us feel safe and it makes them feel safe. We all feel good about this. There's a lot of intrinsic value to doing this," Dearth said.

The block watch members certainly value their neighborhood and take a proactive approach that includes handing out flyers informing people about upcoming meetings.

Posted by KO