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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Making a difference and cleaning up a really big problem

I’ve learned a lot about Eva over the past eight weeks.

She reads a lot. She travels a lot. She loves her friend, who sits between us every Tuesday night at the Euclid Citizen Police Academy.

But, what I’ve come to know best about her is that she wants the world to be a heck of a lot different than it is.

Really, we all do.

Euclid Police wouldn’t be offering this class if they didn’t understand that.

They need our help to make some changes in what too many view from the outside as a crime-riddled inner-ring suburb with significant problems.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the 11-week class we’re moving through allows us up-close encounters with personnel from many of the areas within the department.

We’ve met a patrolman; someone who works traffic enforcement; a member of the SWAT team; and two of the folks who work in the city’s jail.

The message is always the same — we need your help.

It’s one that makes sense.

To me.

My neighbor, on the other hand, isn’t too sure about that.

To her, we shouldn’t have to do anything.

Follow the law.

If you don’t, there should be punishment.

Strong punishment. She’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that she thinks most criminals should receive the ultimate punishment.

I’m definitely not alone in thinking that she doesn’t have a working relationship with the word leniency.

At the end of the Oct. 22 class, which featured a meeting with the head of the narcotics division, Lt. Scott Meyer, she asked what’s become a very Eva question.

“Do you ever think that you’re just wasting your time?”

Meyer laughed and said no, that in fact the narcotics officers know they’re making a difference.

Just how big a difference would become clear the next day.

First, let me take a step back.

During the narcotics talk, we discussed how big a problem heroin is in Northeast Ohio.

It’s a cheap drug that’s now easily accessible.

Just how accessible, though, falls a little too close to home.

Because home for me is Euclid.

And, as we learned last week, Euclid and its neighboring Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland have become a sort of Ground Zero for heroin trafficking in Northeast Ohio.

You can blame Interstate 90.

When I was learning to drive, the easy-on and easy-off of the highway was convenient.

It’s far too convenient for those dealing heroin and those who, according to federal, Cuyahoga County and local police officials, are coming in from Lake, Geauga and other nearby counties to purchase their drugs.

One of the favorite spots is a large retail area at East 200th Street and Lakeland Boulevard. Exit the highway, into the store lot. When the exchange is complete, hop back on the highway — in either direction.

Quick and way too dirty.

But, just as popular, we heard in class Oct. 22, are neighborhood side streets that allow quick, easy-on, easy-off access to the freeway and just a few seconds for an exchange.

One of the other women in my class described to Meyer what she thinks might have been drug deals in her neighborhood.

He nodded and said she’s probably right. He also reminded her that calls to police with a description of a car, or a license plate number or even patterns of such traffic are helpful in their battle against trafficking.

No doubt such information proved invaluable in the raid and bust that netted 32 members of the so-called Lakeshore Boyz drug gang that patrols Euclid and Collinwood.

During a news conference held about 14 hours after Eva asked her question of Meyer, officials from the U.S Attorney’s Office, FBI, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Police and Euclid Police stood up to announce the arrests and that they’re taking back their streets.

“To those people who think they can come into our neighborhoods and not be held accountable to try and purchase heroin and any other drugs and perpetuate violence, we’re coming for you, too,” said Euclid Mayor Bill Cervenik. “Stay in your own neighborhood. Stay out of our town. Find somewhere else to do your business. The next time it’s going to be you.”

Cervenik spoke after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who’s becoming a bit of a legend for his refusal to hold back, calling those whom he’s indicted thugs or even worse as he details how their lives are about to change in the justice system.

“Nothing is lower than a heroin dealer,” said McGinty, who formerly served as a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judge. “Heroin is going to cause more deaths in Cuyahoga County this year than gun-related homicides.”

Not long after McGinty spoke, Cervenik tackled Eva’s topic from the night before.

“To those who are indicted and arrested today, good riddance, don’t come back,” he said. “Our message to our residents that was sent today is that we do care. We will clean up your neighborhoods. But we need your help. When our residents see something that they don’t think is right in their neighborhoods, call the police department. We’ll take them out; we’ll chase them away.”

He’s not kidding, either.

Credit came at the news conference to a combined effort between the two cities’ police departments and their federal and county brethren.

I can only hope Eva got this message that no, they’re not just wasting their time.

They’re out there every day, working to clean up the streets we call home.

Editor’s note: Eva’s name was altered to protect her anonymity.


Anonymous bubblegum casting said...

Very good read!

November 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM 

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