More than 35 people attended Cleveland Heights’ first Meet Your Police meeting on Thursday night in .
The informal gathering is meant to be an open forum for residents to share concerns with police personnel, and it . The program launched last week, and Jeff Robertson, in December, led what ended up being a group discussion.
Sgt. Christopher Britton, a Cleveland Heights resident who will coordinate the program, said the meetings will help improve community policing.
“We need your eyes and ears, because we can’t be everywhere,” Britton said. “We need your eyes and ears to help us.”
Residents raised concerns about kids walking in the street when the sidewalks are covered in snow, safety, vacant home thefts and juvenile crime.
Brian Berger said he’s watched Cain Park deteriorate over the years, and though he lives across the street from the park, his family doesn’t feel safe using it.
“I think you guys do a great job,” Berger said after sharing his concerns. “I love my community, I love my neighbors, and I’m really concerned … We’re going to have to move soon, and I don’t want to move.”
Robertson said that starting in the summer, there will be two officers on bicycles patrolling the park, and that the city does its best to clean up graffiti and trash quickly.
“I’ve been through the park a thousand times — I know what you’re talking about,” he said. “Cain Park is a jewel in the city.”
For almost every complaint, police officials had an answer. When someone said that car stereos were too loud on her street, Robertson said the fine is $150, and that the force is “pretty aggressive about it.” He asked if there was a pattern, and said he'd send patrols to catch the culprits.
But some problems don’t have simple solutions.
A few residents complained about juvenile crime and wondered what could be done to curb it.
“We do arrest a lot of juveniles for curfew, but this is where the parents come in,” said Capt. Michelle Garvey. “We have to threaten their kids with charges sometimes just to make them pick them up … we have to pick and choose the ones that really have to be arrested."
The discussion got tense when two residents debated whether it was appropriate for neighbors to talk to one another about their children's behavior. Some said they’ve tried, and the parents cursed at them. You can't tell parents how to raise their kids, some said.
Investigator Quintero Mack chimed in.
“We’re stuck babysitting two to three hours because the parents aren’t responsible. It’s a big problem,” Mack said.
Cleveland Heights resident Darryl Woods attended the meeting just to hear what others had to say.
“I’m supportive of the idea, and I think it will be more important when the weather breaks in the springtime,” Woods said. “Things are more active … I’m hoping they’ll continue it.”
Sandra Clark, who has lived in the city since 1971, said she's tired of kids hanging out late at night on her street making noise and causing trouble. But she was quick to commend the .
Clark said she remembers when Capt. Brad Sudyk, who was also at the meeting, drove by when she and her husband were cleaning out the garage. He stopped his car because he didn’t see them at first.
“He said, ‘I just wanted to make sure everything was all right,’” Clark said.
Sudyk said he thought the meeting went well.
“We’ve always embraced that community policing philosophy, and this is just an extension of that,” he said. “We want to embrace that partnership.”
The group discussion concluded around 7:45 p.m., but police officials stuck around until after 8:30 to chat with residents one-on-one.
The Meet Your Police meetings will be at 6 p.m. on Thursdays in the Cleveland Heights City Hall cafeteria.