The anguish is evident.
''You can't catch them because they do it at night and you never know when they are going to do it,'' said 77-year-old Bingham Avenue resident John Yoist. ''They break my windows and then head into the woods. I can't even sleep at night.''
''People are afraid,'' Northwest Neighborhood Association leader Bob Weitzel said. ''People are sleeping with guns by their bed. If they keep this up, something's going to happen because they're driving us crazy.''
Something is happening in this northwest side neighborhood and in other neighborhoods across town. People are organizing and the city is supporting their efforts and hoods are turning back into neighborhood.
A good example is in the 6th Ward block watch recruitment. The Southwest Neighborhood Association, Community Concerned Citizens II, the Palmyra Heights / Warren Woods Association, the NAACP, 6th Ward Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold and the police have joined forces to reduce vandalism, theft and personal crime in the area.
The effort goes beyond the traditional block watch approach which calls for residents to take turns keeping an eye on the street and calling police quickly if they see something inappropriate. Citizen groups are expanding Quinby Park and sponsoring a community garden. And in addition to captains in charge of each street, Southwest Neighborhood Association member Rhonda Bennett said there would be some people on patrol.
That's a concept that we have advocated, as long as it's performed with direction from the police department. In appropriate numbers for safety, wearing reflective clothing and armed with nothing more than flashlights and cell phones, streets busy with civilian patrols serve as a deterrent to criminals who prefer darkness and solitude.
While Warren suffers from high crime, it seems unique in the number of people who care enough to form or join citizen groups. The Warren Neighborhood Leadership Council has nine neighborhood associations under its umbrella to address common quality of life issues and provide leadership.
Police and Mayor Doug Franklin's administration have worked well with the neighborhood groups. Even those suffering the rash of vandalism on the northwest side praised the city and one juvenile has been arrested.
But police can't be everywhere all the time. And though fear of vigilantism and risk of bodily harm give city leaders good reason to resist citizen patrols, Police Chief Tim Bowers, Safety / Service Director Enzo Cantalemessa and Franklin should note Weitzel's comment about people sleeping with guns by their beds.
Coordinated citizen patrols should be a better alternative.