CLEVELAND, Ohio — Antoine Tolbert walks around East 40th Street and Quincy Avenue most days which is one of the many neighborhoods he's working to make safer.
“We have a big issue with babies being shot and murdered in our communities,” said Tolbert. “People at home are minding their business, watching TV and their homes are shot up, there needs to be something done.”
Tolbert is the president of New Era Cleveland, his group patrol's some of Cleveland’s most violent neighborhoods with armed men who Tolbert says are legal and permitted to carry.
As of late, New Era’s work is aimed near Longwood and Arbor Park.
Longwood is nestled in Cleveland’s fifth ward, a ward that according to the Center for Community Solutions is 75% black and nearly 84% is in or near poverty.
Tolbert said he’s ramping up patrols heavily in the Longwood neighborhood near a community park at 37th Street and Longwood Avenue.
“It’s kids playing in between and can’t go to the park because of the shootings,” said Tolbert. “Kids can't even play because our parks are not safe spaces.”
Just blocks from the park this past Sunday, a 12-year-old was shot and left in critical condition. Kids' safety is one of the reasons why Tolbert and his crew are out in the streets.
“We had a call the last time someone called police and reported 15 armed men carrying large guns,” said Tolbert. “Security came, police came, the police didn’t engage us, but security did.”
Video footage given to News 5 shows that encounter New Era had with security guards.
The security guards quickly learn New Era is in the neighborhood with peaceful intentions and applause erupts as the guards choose to stand with New Era for the evening.
Tolbert says now more than ever Cleveland needs a presence of men on the streets who are from and look the area.
“We want to erase that need to even have to carry a firearm or that need for there to be hatred for another individual just because you're from a separate side of the street,” said Tolbert.
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