By Karen Cornelius
Vermilion police chief Chris Hartung addressed the Health and Safety Committee on Monday night, June 12. His monthly report reflected the summer warm weather has kicked off the season with its usual mischief and crime. There’s petty vandalism, thefts, car entries, and already six rescues made by the police patrol boat.
The chief advised people need to lock up their cars, homes, and garages. He said two purses were taken out of cars at Sailorway. He said no one should leave purses in cars in plain sight. There’s been vandalism throughout the city and at the museum property and the old Vermilion Elementary School. At the vacant school there was spray painting across the back and someone smashed a window. “If you see something, say something,” said the chief.
As an example, a resident on North Ridge Road recently had his mailbox set on fire. He put up a new mailbox on a concrete pad, and two nights later, that mailbox was ripped out by someone hooking a chain to it. The chief wondered how no one could have been aware of this incident and the noise and chain. He emphasized people should take care of their neighbors and report anything suspicious. “Call the police,” said the chief. “Call us when it is happening.” He stated how frustrating it is to hear about events after the fact or have a person call a councilman and then pass it onto him later. He asked citizens to keep their eyes open.
With the police patrol boat barely being in the water, there were six search and rescues with two on the very first day of operations. An example, girls on a paddleboat went too far out on the lake, one mile, and could not get back. He thanked Sergeant Gordon Adams for handling the successful rescues.
Chief Hartung said Safety Town for those going to kindergarten in the fall started this week with School Resource Officer Beckwith in charge. After that, Beckwith will start working with the city’s building department and inspector Bill DiFucci in July to give him some authority as they cleanup violations around the city such as inoperable vehicles, trailers, and neighborhood nuisance issues. The chief said it’s important because these nuisance issues grow larger if they are not addressed. One broken window soon turns into more broken windows. If not nipped in the bud, graffiti and more deterioration just follows.
The chief told council members to expect possible litigation involving several matters. He said while sergeant Aaron Bolton has resigned, the suspect in question with a use of force could start some litigation. He announced the Simko murder pre-trial was going to start in August with a trial scheduled for September which could cause a lot of attention. The former police captain Reinheimer in a month or so could try litigation against the city.
The police chief was further distressed by an incident last month caught on video of a lady tossing a dog into Lake Erie. He said right off the bat the police were portrayed as doing nothing by the media. He said he saw the video on TV and people came to a conclusion before the police had even investigated it. While this was a lack in judgment on the woman’s part, it was not criminal. He said the dog had a full body harness on and it was her way to teach the dog, a retriever to swim. He said the police looked at the video, interviewed the person, the living conditions, talked to a vet and Lorain County dog warden. It was her mother’s dog and there was another dog in the house. Hartung said it was up to the Lorain County dog warden to remove the dogs.
“This was not taken lightly. It was a horrible way to teach, but the dog was not injured. The lake was 52 degrees,” said the chief. “I can’t testify to the mind set of the dog, and prove without a doubt it was criminal.” He said sometimes the law doesn’t jive with the incident. “We did not see the intent was to hurt the dog.” However, this incident was given to the prosecutor and law director Ken Stumphauzer, and the chief is waiting on their determination. The chief did not think there will be any charges.
The chief additionally discussed a safety issue at South Shore Court where young teens were playing basketball with a hoop in a parking space. While historically he has rarely heard complaints, this has become an occasional nuisance on this street. When the ball went out into the street recently, a female driver took the basketball away. She was arrested for taking the ball. The police chief said there is no criminal charge for a ball in the street, perhaps disorderly conduct, but he said they couldn’t arrest the kids, no one would charge them. He did talk to the building manager about these quality of life issues. Chief Hartung said he had a sample nuisance ordinance from Oregon which could be a tool to identify nuisance conditions so they could act on them. The penalty would be on the property owners, the landlords who should police their own properties. He said at South Shore there were different landlords for buildings.
Councilman Fred Ostrander said there are other places where drivers are frustrated with kids running after balls in the street. He said someone could get hurt. Council president Steve Herron said if you drive a car, you have to give way to pedestrians. He said if someone objects to kids playing outside which is rare with video games, etc, they should go get therapy. “It’s kids, they are just playing basketball,” said Herron. Council-at-large Monica Stark asked why the teens couldn’t move further down to the cul-de-sac where there is less traffic. The chief said it could be resolved but there are different building owners. Also, the main players tend to be near Liberty Avenue.
Herron, sitting in for Health and Safety chair Brian Holmes, stated they can put this nuisance ordinance draft on the Legislative Committee agenda next month. Chief Hartung stated the proposed legislation is the only thing he came up with to give the police a tool to handle nuisance issues.