By RAYMOND L. SMITH
WARREN - For some Washington Street residents, the days of helplessly watching prostitutes and drug dealers control of their neighborhood are over.
James Pinion was one of several area residents who spoke with City Council members Wednesday during their regular meeting, and afterward demanded something most be done to reverse the increasing crime in the neighborhood.
"We have a major, major problem," Pinion said.
He described one Washington Street N.E. home as being a place where police have been been called on more than 30 occasions during a 10-month period.
Tribune Chronicle photos /Raymond L. Smith
Kim Gray is working with other neighbors to bring neighbors together to create a healthy livable environment.
There have been 36 calls at that address from November 2011 to October 2012, according to police records. Calls included nine ambulance requests, 10 disturbances, two instances of gunshots or threats, one fight, one assault, one vice, and others.
It was the attack of an elderly couple, Raymond and Jeanne Pierce, 171 Washington St., that caused some residents to say enough is enough.
The couple was in their home on Oct. 2 when a group of three masked men attacked Raymond Pierce, 80, and Jeanne Pierce, 70. The Pierces were in their home when the men burst through door shortly before 11:30 p.m., demanded money and severely beat them, police said.
For more info Anyone interesting in joining the Central City Neighborhood Association should call 330-978-0455.
The couple has since moved away, according to neighborhood residents.
No arrests have been made in connection with the assaults. The investigation is ongoing.
Rachel Hathhorn, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for 13 years, has watched her neighborhood turn for a working class, multi-cultural area to one that in about five years is experiencing some of the worse ravages of the economic downfall that has engulfed the nation.
"When we moved here, the vast majority of the homes were owner-occupied," Hathhorn said. "Now, too many are either rentals or have been abandoned."
Hathhorn was born and raised in Warren. She said she hopes to remain in the city.
However, the woman who used to feel very comfortable going for a run in the neighborhood has gone from deciding to carry pepper spray and a cell phone, or not running at all.
"People should not have to live like this," she said.
She wants to fight for her neighborhood.
Joan Sullivan, who lives on Mercer, planted a community garden at the corner of Mercer and Washington in May 2011, growing basic vegetables, greens, cabbages, tomatoes and other products.
"The garden definitely has made a difference," Sullivan said. "It brought more families out. Because some people on the street are very low income, they use the vegetables from the garden to supplement their meals."
The gardens helped Sullivan to develop relationships with some of the more unsavory elements.
"They respect what we were trying to do," Sullivan said. "They would move their business away from the gardens."
Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, describes Washington and some of the other surrounding streets as neighborhoods in transition.
"We still have a lot of properties in the area that are owner-occupied," Novak said. "We have people who have lived here for 30 years or more. They working to keep their homes in good condition and safe. They want nice neighborhoods, just like most home owners."
While he believes there still are more owner-occupied homes than rentals, Novak said the number of rentals have increased significantly. The neighborhood is becoming more transient.
Drugs, poverty and a feeling of hopelessness have driven some property owners away. It has caused others who remain to lock their doors and look away.
"There is marijuana, heroin and other drugs sold in the area," Novak said. "It is not just one house. There are multiple drug houses on different streets from which the dealers work. They travel between houses, often through backyards."
There are a number of the empty homes on Washington that are expected to be demolished when the city begins its program using Moving Ohio Forward Funds.
Several residents formed a neighborhood association called Central City Neighborhood Association, according to Councilman Greg Bartholomew.
"Prostitution and drugs have been big issues," Bartholomew said. "Guys driving in the area looking for one or both. We have to do what we can to drive those activities out."
While crime and drugs will be issues the association members want to address, they also want to bring a greater since of community to Washington N.E. and the neighborhoods surrounding it.
Councilman Jim Valesky, D-at large, a member and one of the founders of the Historic Perkins Neighborhood Association, invited the Washington Street residents to come to its next meeting on Dec. 11 to help them in the formation of their association.
"The Historic Neighborhood Association was created in 2006 to secure it and stop further decline," Valesky said. "It has been successful because the organization has invited in the people it has said it wanted to help."
Valesky said the Perkins association will help the Washington Street residents in anyway it can.
"We (the city) need to stop giving these residents lip service," Valesky said. "We need to do what we can do help abate the problem. We have to change. Treating the problem in the same way we have in the past is insanity."
Police Chief Tim Bowers on Wednesday told the concerned residents that since the Pierce attack, police patrols in the area have significantly increased.
"Officers on the northeast and the southeast side, when they are not on calls are to patrol in the area," Bowers said.
Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the activities on Washington Street have been on the city's radar and the city is working on a comprehensive strategy that will address issues not only on that street, but also in other areas."
However, Law Director Greg Hicks emphasized that a multi pronged attack through the police, courts, housing and health department take time to develop.
"We need your help," Hicks said. "We need you to call the police when you see things happening."