Deputies will keep watch on East Side
Youngstown's police chief said it's fine with him if deputies patrol a section of the city.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Welcome to La La Land, Mahoning County deputy sheriffs.
"We'll stay until we get the job done," said Sheriff Randall A. Wellington. "We'll look for violations of law, make arrests and assist Youngstown police when needed."
The sheriff has assigned two cruisers and a prisoner transport van around the clock to the East Side area drug users call La La Land.
Deputies, who have countywide police powers, will patrol from Himrod to Wilson avenues, over to Lincoln Park Drive and down to the interstate.
In the news: The section of town has made news lately with packs of wild dogs, gunfire in the middle of the day and the criminal gang indictments of 14 Ayers Street Playas.
Neighbors who witnessed drug sales on Ayers have expressed fear and anger.
Dwayne L. Thomas, 20, of Shehy Street told police his house was shot up Tuesday afternoon by a man he knows. Police collected 18 casings.
Both Thomas and the 20-year-old South Pearl Street suspect are on probation to municipal court judges and owe fines.
Wellington said the Thomas shooting persuaded him to take action.
"There's an immediate need for public safety," said Maj. Michael Budd. "Our marked cruisers will augment what Youngstown has there. We're going to high-profile it, try to do proactive enforcement, curtail crimes before they occur."
Lives in fear: A 69-year-old Ayers Street woman who spoke on condition of anonymity said she's glad the high-crime area has attracted the attention of the sheriff.
"Oh, my heavens, yes, that's good news," she said. "People are hostages in their own house. They're petrified. You see and you say nothing. It's like children. I call them children, but they're young adults [who] have taken over the street."
She said some houses on the street sold for as little as $1,000 and she fears the buyers rent to drug dealers. Most of the homeowners, she said, can't afford to move.
The woman said she's pleased with the area's new councilman, Rufus Hudson, D-2nd.
Gunfire abounds: "We are afraid. Too much shooting," a 74-year-old Ayers Street man said. "I live by myself. The bullets fly around the house. Thank God none hit it."
In a thick accent, the man recalled the days after the Playas arrests March 5.
One gang leader, as soon as he bonded out of jail, threatened to shoot the Hispanics on the street, the man said.
The gang, which police said ruled by intimidation, was back out selling drugs within two days of the arrests, the man said.
He's been afraid to talk to police and didn't want to be identified for this story.
After 32 years on Ayers, he's seen the once-clean, neat neighborhood sink into decay. He talked about drug dealers, junk cars and gunfire "that sounded like the Korean War."
Top cops talk: Wellington was to talk to Police Chief Richard Lewis today about having deputies on the East Side.
Until now, the sheriff has been reluctant to have deputies in the city. He said the informational satellite post he put at 2003 McGuffey Road last September may have caused some hard feelings with Lewis and city police.
Lewis said this morning it's fine with him if the sheriff wants to put patrols in the city. "I certainly don't have any objections," he said.
Mayor George M. McKelvey welcomed the news of deputies on the East Side.
"That's terrific. ... Last time I looked we were still in the county," he said.
New arrests: Deputies made four arrests in the neighborhood Wednesday, but reports indicate that none was gang related.
Three of the four were charged with traffic offenses and one was charged with receiving stolen property.