WARREN - Retired General Motors worker Ronald Harris spent Monday afternoon covered with sweat from boarding up his property at 214 Nevada Ave. N.W. It already has been stripped of most anything of value inside.
Harris, 64, complained about the lack of police patrols on the northwest side of the city and how city officials should focus on home break-ins, vandalism and increasing safety in the neighborhoods.
Harris plans to attend a city health department hearing at 3 p.m. today at the Health Department, 418 Main Ave. S.W., that will discuss what should be done with his and more than a dozen other properties that were condemned and headed for demolition. Harris' property was condemned on April 16.
Harris said he was notified of the the hearing by letter and was sent a detailed list of all of the deficiencies in the house.
"They did not have a right to enter my house," Harris said.
Health department employees have the right to enter property being condemned in preparation for hearings. There currently are 411 properties on the city's condemnation list.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Raymond L. Smith
Ronald Harris says his property at 214 Nevada Ave. N.W., Warren, has been stripped of everything valuable, including all of its copper, wiring, cabinets and appliances, since he was last in the area in the fall of 2012. He came back to Warren this week from his home in Tennessee to board up the property and to attend a city health board hearing that will discuss the status of more than a dozen properties in the city.
The city is working to demolish more than 100 abandoned properties this year, using money from the Moving Ohio Forward grant being distributed through the Ohio Attorney General's office. Properties must be placed on the city's condemnation list prior to being considered for demolition.
Harris said he spent about $150 this weekend to drive his truck from his home in Maryville, Tenn., to do the board-up. He spent about $275 for wood, screws and other materials needed to secure the house.
Harris purchased the property in the early 1970s. He lived in it before moving out of the state after his retirement after 33 years in 2006. He decided not to rent it because he did not want to be harassed either by renters constantly asking for small repairs or having to follow city codes for rental properties.
"I had a friend, Oscar Moore, who lived across the street, that kept an eye on the place," Harris said. "About two years ago, Oscar called the police after seeing someone breaking in the back door. He told the dispatcher that officers needed to get down here quickly or he would shoot the suspect as he walked out of the door.
"Officers were here to arrest the guy within two minutes," Harris said. "They took the guy downtown, but eventually let him go."
Moore died last year.
On Monday, Harris did not need the 88-degree temperatures to be boiling hot with anger.
Sometime between November 2012 and last week, all of the house's copper wiring and plumbing were ripped out of the walls. Also taken were the house's furnace, a large side-by-side refrigerator, upper and lower metal kitchen cabinets, two bathroom sinks, a bath tub and a hot water tank. Plaster and drywall were torn off the home's walls and ceilings, and a window was taken from its frame.
Some of the aluminum siding on the house next door to Harris' property has been stripped off. The door has been kicked open and the garage door is half-way up.
"Neither property was this bad when I was here last winter," Harris said.
"If the police patrolled this area regularly, they could have caught the people breaking into these houses," he said. "I was here for more than a month last year and I saw a patrol car only once."
Harris said it appears the department is afraid to patrol the area.
Warren police reported receiving an estimated 60 calls for service from Jan. 2, 2012, through May 28, 2013, on Nevada N.W. There were very few calls for breaking and entering or robberies.
Andrea Moore, who lives on Oregon N.W., one block east of Nevada, agreed with Harris that there are few, if any, regular police patrols in the neighborhood.
"It is not like it was when I was growing up on the west side," Moore said. "The police will come if they are called, and if there is immediate danger. It might take them longer to get here if there is not a imminent safety threat."
While critical, Moore says she understands the city is going through a tight financial period and only has so much money to spend on police.
However, she added the department could save some money by not buying equipment every few years and investing money into adding new patrol officers.
Moore described the area as not that bad.
"Everyone pretty much keeps to themselves," Moore said. "I wish there were more patrols. For those of us who take care of our properties, pay our taxes and live here quietly, we would like to protect what we own just like people in any other part of the city."
Harris says the city should focus its efforts on patrolling neighborhoods to stop the break-ins.
"If the city had to pay for the repairs, it would work harder to prevent the break-ins from happening in the first place," he said.