Eastmoor businesses launch block watch for Main, Broad

Eastmoor area businesses are ready to launch their own block watch, to share information and deter crime as part of a larger effort to revitalize Main and Broad streets.

At an Oct. 16 meeting sponsored by the Eastmoor Civic Association, Brent Howard and Cyndi Crist, of Wallace F. Ackley Company Real Estate on Main Street, and Joe Conte, of Hampton Court Apartments on Broad Street, volunteered to be captains of the fledgling effort.

According to Heidi Samuel, economic development director of the Eastmoor Civic Association, preliminary survey results show that business owners in the neighborhood see crime as a growing concern and that it can drive away customers and discourage reputable businesses from locating in the area.

About a dozen business owners, out of around 135, attended the morning meeting.

But it doesn’t matter if the effort starts out small, commented Ellen Peterson, outgoing president of the civic association and chairwoman of the residential block watch.

The association that represents 1,000 residents started in someone’s living room with six people, she remembered.

The Eastmoor Civic Association has been successful in enlisting the Columbus Department of Development in setting the groundwork for commercial redevelopment, and banded together with other groups to board up crime-plagued Motel One.

"If we are united, we can make a statement, and partner with the police to make the neighborhood safe and secure," Peterson said.  "If we are united, we can send a message to the criminal element that you’re not wanted."

And that message will spread, promised Officer Jarrod James, the liaison officer for the 9th Precinct.

"Criminals do talk to each other, and they’d rather go where it’s easy pickins," James said. "They’re not the brightest people, but they’re not stupid."

The key element of the block watch will be an email chain to alert business owners of suspicious activity, loitering, vandalism or other crimes that have occurred, Peterson said.

She recalled being robbed while working at a Short North shop,  and how the owner had a description and the details of the crime out on the web within hours, as a precaution to other merchants and a lead for law enforcement.

"You feel more secure when you know you’re not alone," Peterson said.

The block watch captains will be responsible for the email links, and will communicate with the liaison officer, who can in turn inform other police divisions about problem spots.

"If you get the information to me, I can get it to where it needs to go," such as vice or narcotics squads, James said.

Participating businesses will also be given large, colorful signs that will alert troublemakers – and customers – that the owners are on the job to keep the area crime-free.

The residential block watch has similar signs for homes, and they are a deterrent to crime, Peterson said. "Burglars don’t like to see this."

The Eastmoor effort has been spurred by the success of Bexley and Whitehall in developing their areas of Main Street.

Howard has a connection with all three neighborhoods. He is a Bexley native with a business in Eastmoor, and he is president of Whitehall City Council.

His business has also been a crime victim when its garage was broken into, giving him an added interest in preventing further incidents.

Samuel pointed out that the block watch is part of the larger attempt at revitalization. She is working on a committee addressing business retention and attraction, and Gayle Worthington, of Peacekeepers block watch, is working on code enforcement issues.

Next spring the neighborhood advocates will be working on design and aesthetics, possibly seeking grants for upgraded lighting.

Samuel noted at the meeting that the look of the area is also a concern for business owners.

The civic association is still collecting responses from the survey sent to business owners.

The next meeting will be held Nov. 13 at 8:30 a.m. at Wing’s restaurant, 2801 E. Main St.

Main Street business owners interested in participating in the block watch can contact Brent Howard or Cyndi Crist at 231-3661, or by emailing to bhoward@wfaco.com.

Broad Street business owners can contact Joe Conte at 236-0796 or by email at jomon1@spc.global.net.

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