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Four former mayors to address Toledo City Council public safety committee Tuesday

On Friday, Donna Owens, Carty Finkbeiner and Michael Bell, members of the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods, will brief media on their plans for Tuesday.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Former Toledo mayors Donna Owens, Carty Finkbeiner, Michael Bell and Paula Hicks-Hudson plan to address city council's public safety committee Tuesday.

All four are members of the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods, a community group founded by Finkbeiner and Epworth United Methodist Church's Reverend Dr. Stephen Swisher focused on reducing crime and gun violence in the city. The coalition held its first meeting in late October.

"Since launching in October, the coalition has gathered broad community input and support in their effort to address community concern on continuing high crime rates. Their mission is to address violent crime through community engagement, partnership building, and calling for a return of community policing and Toledo’s block watch program," according to a press release.

Owens, Finkbeiner and Bell will brief media on their plans for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. on Friday at the Old West End Commons, the release states. WTOL 11 will be at this media brief.

Council members have been passionately advocating for months for Matt Cherry, council president and chair of the public safety committee, to call a committee meeting to hear concerns from citizens and receive reports from police.

The requests were revitalized in early October after three people were shot outside of a Whitmer High School football game.

At the Nov. 16 council meeting, Cherry said he will "definitely call a public safety meeting as soon as we know that we're going to have people at the table."

As of the evening of Dec. 1, Toledo has seen 59 homicides in 2022.

Council has seen differing ideas recently on how to reduce violence in the city. Council members George Sarantou and Theresa Morris introduced a resolution at the Nov. 16 council meeting to "restrengthen" block watches and involve community groups in efforts to reduce crime and violence in Toledo, with the assistance of the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods.

The resolution faced pushback from other council members who said the concept of what a Toledo block watch is needs to be revised and that council efforts to reduce violence need to focus on programs the city has already invested money in, such as the violence interrupter program.

Council member Tiffany Preston Whitman said unified action from various entities in the city such as local school systems and community action agencies will be necessary to curb violence.

Council member John Hobbs said block watches in the past failed not due to the COVID-19 pandemic like Sarantou said, but because criminals were attending block watches meetings in high-crime areas and intimidating participants into silence or harassing them until they stopped attending the meetings.

"This is not something somebody told me. This is what I know because I grew up in these neighborhoods and I know the failure of it," Hobbs said at the Nov. 16 meeting.

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