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Downtown Sandusky block watch organizes

Jason Singer • Aug 8, 2010 at 1:33 AM

Three weeks ago, two men burglarized Harvey Heys' Water Street apartment.

The perpetrators waited outside his home in the early morning, and eventually made off with a safe full of money, papers and jewelry.

"Maybe if someone would have seen the truck sitting out there at 6 a.m., someone would have called the police and maybe it could have been prevented," Heys said.

Heys and nearly 50 others on Wednesday night kicked off a new downtown Sandusky block watch, a notable step forward in preventing crime in the city.

The first meeting was at Cabana Jacks.

Sandusky police Lt. Phil Frost called it a "tremendous turnout -- the best I've ever seen for a block watch's first meeting.

"This is what we want," Frost said. "We want involvement."

The group, which occupied at least a third of the restaurant, included downtown employees, residents, city officials and at least one representative from nearly every downtown business.

The organizers collected names and e-mail addresses and handed out surveys asking about the experiences they've had downtown.

The surveys also asked what residents and business owners like and dislike about downtown, and any concerns they have about criminal or suspicious activities.

The survey's results, Frost said, will help police and block-watch members identify trends they'd otherwise miss.

The group also discussed a phone tree they'll use to improve communication.

When an incident occurs -- theft of a safe, for instance -- police and downtown residents and business would have a group of phone numbers to call, alerting others of the situation.

Jeff Krabill, a downtown resident and businessman, said e-mails and text messages can also be used to send instantaneous alerts.

The group will push the idea forward at the next meeting.

"It's all about communication," Frost said. "You people need to be the eyes and ears for each other, and let us know what's going on."

People should report any suspicious activity to police, Frost said, because officers would much rather arrive to a an incident that's nothing, rather than missing an incident that turns out to be something.

Erik Anderson, owner of Erik's Clothing for Men, organized the meeting.

Downtown is progressing with new restaurants, improvements to Peddler's Alley and a busy summer, Anderson said, but the community must continue making progress.

Vandalism and other petty crimes downtown have endured, Anderson said.

"We want to protect it so people can keep enjoying it," he said.

Frost praised the large turnout at Wednesday's meeting -- it admittedly surprised him, and he only brought enough surveys and informational sheets for 25 people.

Still, he said block watches often start strong and die out.

Continuing the meetings with strong involvement is essential to keeping everyone aware, Frost said.

In the end, everyone agreed on this: Downtown Sandusky is essentially a safe place, but it can always be improved.

"That's why block watches are so important," Frost said. "It's really in your hands now."

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