Speaking out about crime in Wooster

Residents from North Buckeye Street and surrounding neighborhoods struggling with crime and drug activity organized a community meeting to air grievances and obtain solutions.

City Council members, law enforcement and the mayor were in attendance for the meeting held at Central Christian Church.

"One of the challenges we face in our community is drug houses and illegal drug activity," noted David Griffith, an advocate and resident of North Buckeye Street. He added the community has "seen a resurgence in the last couple of years" of drug and criminal activity.

Police Capt. Scott Rotolo and Chief Matt Fisher explained that more often than not crimes are committed by individuals supporting drug addictions.

One major way to combat crime in a neighborhood, including suspected drug houses, is to establish a neighborhood watch program, which Rotolo explained to the group.

"It can't be just one person," Rotolo said, in a watch group, which he explicitly said is not a "vigilante group." A watch program also is not organized or run by the Police Department, but is maintained by residents in a community.

"(A neighborhood watch) is the eyes and ears when we can't be there," he said.

Rotolo noted that any neighborhood can establish a watch group and can contact him to get information about starting one.

"I will support it, but it's not a police initiative," Rotolo said.

After the meeting Tuesday, several citizens noted if they are serious about changing things it needs to start with them, and soon.

"There is no solution that does not involve citizens," Griffith said.

The WPD officials, along with Medway Drug Enforcement Agency Director Don Hall, also explained ways in which residents can help build a case against suspected drug dealers and houses.

Other issues that hamper the department's abilities to effectively deal with the drug problem, Fisher and Rotolo said, include manpower issues, which they said they are working to address, frustration dealing with the judicial system and sentencing guidelines.

"That level of frustration is palpable," said Griffith, when he explained how residents can point to the houses on their blocks where drugs are sold.

"The frustrations you feel about that are the same frustrations I feel about that," Fisher said.

Fisher and Hall advised residents to email the police information about suspected drug activity.

Landlord issues also were discussed and Rotolo said he is working with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to determine what course of action can be pursued through the court system.

"The issues you've had don't fall on deaf ears," Fisher said. "The city of Wooster is the hub of drugs (in Wayne County)."

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