CLEVELAND — Some residents in Cleveland's Slavic Village neighborhood are fed-up with what they called increased lawlessness and crime that has been pervasive in their community since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in March 2020.
Slavic Village block club leaders like Ed McDonald pointed to a series of reckless drivers who slammed their vehicles into homes or businesses in recent months.
McDonald said his neighborhood continues to deal with potentially hazardous vacant homes, crime and gun shots ringing out nearly every night, an issue that made national headlines on Jan. 3 in a New York Times article titled: Gunfire and Crashing Cars: In Struggling Neighbors, 'We're Losing Our Grip.'
“It’s tough to read stuff about your neighborhood when it’s constantly negative," McDonald said. “It doesn’t seem like we’re moving forward, it seems like every time we’re taking to two steps forward, we’re taking three steps back. This just another example of how we’re allowing lawlessness and people going around breaking the law and not doing anything about it."
Ted Skwarski, owner of Ted’s Auto Service and Body on Harvard Avenue, had his business hit by a speeding driver on Jan. 13 and said his building sustained major damage.
Skwarski said Cleveland Councilman Tony Brancatelli is doing the best he can, but more city funding and police enforcement is needed.
”It makes me very sick to see this happening," Skwarski said. “Damage to my building, damage to my employee's cars, it’s terrible. If this was Tremont, if this was Collinwood, it would be done. Poor Slavic Village gets nothing.
“Nothing is done, everywhere it’s getting worse and worse, we get no help from anybody. I would really hope that we get a new administration that would put some money in our neighborhood, we need it. It’s just terrible, it’s just terrible and I don’t know how else to jump start it.”
Brancatelli told News 5 the pandemic has had an impact in slowing down neighborhood block club involvement. His community development corporation is now implementing neighborhood outreach by distributing a resident pandemic supply kit.
Brancatelli said he has 2021 plans to foster a greater partnership between the residents, community leaders and leaders at city hall to slowdown the troubling crime trend.
“It’s been a real challenge," Brancatelli said. “Speeding is up, and not just people going 10 to 15 miles-an-hour over the limit, there are people going 100 miles an hour. Some of the accidents have been pretty horrific, where they are crashing into buildings.
“To try and curb some of that takes more than just traffic control, it’s going to have to get folks to understand the consequences of reckless driving. The ability to have residents be engaged at the block club level, losing access to that during COVID, has made it very troubling. As elected officials we need to deliver the services, make sure those houses get boarded up, make sure we get code enforcement, make sure we get people into housing court. I think those are the pieces where we can work hand in hand."