STEUBENVILLE - City Manager Cathy Davison urged LaBelle and Pleasant Heights residents to cooperate with law enforcement officials and listened to a number of concerns regarding drug deals in the two hilltop neighborhoods.
Davison told members of the Hilltop Community Development Corp. Monday night to call the City Police Department "if you see anything suspicious."
"Your concern is legitimate and an officer will be sent to investigate. You may also want to consider creating a formalized crime watch program," said Davison.
"We have had problems with our block watch. Some of our residents have had complaints about the police dispatcher process. We have a lot of juveniles throwing rocks and breaking windows in vacant houses and running the streets. We need more immediate responses from the police when we call them," said Hilltop CDC President Teresa DiCarlantonio.
"We need your help very badly. We don't love our city enough. We have allowed certain people to invade our town and they have taken over. These people first went to Weirton and they were told they had 24 hours to leave. Then they came here and have taken over our town," cited CDC Vice President Delores Wiggins.
"The police need to start watching houses when the neighbors see suspicious activity around a house," noted Pleasant Heights resident Barb Wilinski.
"I hope people realize you listen when we talk. Let's start talking about what we see," she added.
A LaBelle neighborhood resident who asked to not be identified said he has made seven to eight telephone calls to the police department a night.
"I have given names and addresses to the police. If you clean up one house in our neighborhood you will clean up the entire street," he said.
The LaBelle neighborhood resident also opposed plans to build a shelter in Piece of Pie Park.
"If you build a shelter there you are giving the drug dealers an office," he noted.
"A lot of our organization members don't think the police are asserting their authority. Delores Wiggins and I had to sit in Veterans Park to discourage illegal activity in that area. We are looking to you for help. The police can assert their authority. Don't sit in their car. They should go back to walking the beat. The police should also address individuals loitering on street corners," DiCarlantonio stated.
First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto told the group efforts to stop criminal activity in the city "are a team effort."
"Approximately 72 percent of the hilltops are landlords and tenants. They have a responsibility. There is also quite a bit of federal housing in our city. And that costs the City Police overtime. The city is doing its job. The public has to get involved. The landlords, tenants and the banks that are repossessing houses need to get involved. It's time for everyone to step up. And you should take this fight to the landlords, tenants and banks," DiLoreto said.
According to Davison, based on crime statistics and the population, there are enough police officers in the city.
"We are changing our police department schedules to put more officers on the afternoon and midnight shifts. We currently have two vacancies in the department. The Civil Service Commission is in the process of creating a list of qualified candidates to fill one vacancy now and we are waiting for an arbitration ruling before filling the other vacancy," Davison explained.
She also said Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin is seeking U.S. Department of Justice funding to allow the city to install additional surveillance cameras in trouble areas.
"We are taking a tough stance on crime. We are working together with other organizations and have created a truly collaborative effort. If we find a felon with a gun in their car, they are sent immediately to jail. We recently had the Ohio Highway Patrol working in the city and they made 120 traffic stops and 17 arrests during a weekend. When we suspect drug activities we can call the state police canine unit in," Davison said.
"We have had four murders in the city this year and three of them are drug related. We are working very hard to stop these illegal activities" Davison promised.