An FBI agent told Boardman Trustees on Monday night that his agency’s presence in the city of Youngstown has resulted in some gang activity and gang members moving into Boardman Township.
And the Township Administrator told Trustees there is so much decaying housing stock here that a new program should be started to raze some of the most dilapidated buildings in an effort to protect the integrity of neighborhoods.
“Our work has pushed some gang members into Boardman,” Jon Holloway, supervisory special agent of the Cleveland Division/FBI told Trustees.
Agent Holloway said there are some 28 street gangs in the city of Youngstown “and four of them are at war, shooting each other.”
Mr. Holloway suggested by early next year upwards of 40 people could be indicted on drug trafficking-related charges (heroin) “and 40 per cent of their customers are Boardman residents.”
Mr. Holloway told the trustees the heroin addicts often “get their money by stealing from Boardman residents.”
Despite the projections, Mr. Holloway said the FBI doesn’t have a “good enough picture of what is going on in Boardman, so we will be here more often, working the borders.”
He said in the city of Youngstown a violent crimes task force he heads has done ‘knock and talks’ in an effort to obtain gang-related information,.
Mr. Holloway said that task force members have walked through neighborhoods in Youngstown, knocking on doors and speaking with residents.
In one instance in Youngstown, the ‘knock and talk’ effort (on Avondale) resulted in the arrest of two persons wanted for the murder of a 16-year-old boy, he said.
“We want to do the same thing in Boardman,” Mr. Holloway said.
The FBI agent said some gang members live in Boardman, while others use homes in Boardman as ‘stash houses’ for guns and drugs.
Serving on the Violent Crimes Task Force from the Boardman Police Department is Det. Glenn Patton.
Patton said the murder suspects that turned-up in Youngstown as a result of the task force’s ‘knock and talk’ were “people the Boardman Police Department had previously dealt with in a rash of auto thefts.”
Patton said among the gangs that have conducted ‘their business’ in Boardman are the Slabs, H-Block, 51/50 Crips and LSP.
“The gangs operate as a group, for the benefit of the group,” Det. Patton said, adding “We run into problems when they mark their territory, then other gangs enter that territory.”
Det. Patton said local gangs are largely home-based in Youngstown.
“They often start out shoplifting in communities like Boardman, then move on to bigger crimes.”
Disagreements between gangs are taken very seriously by gang members, the detective said.
Township Administrator Jason Loree told Trustees the integrity of some Boardman Township neighborhoods and businesses is being comprised by blight.
“We have some blight here,” Mr. Loree said, indicating the Township Zoning Office is “hard-pressed” to keep up with issues in several neighborhoods.
The administrator suggested using upwards of $150,000 from the township’s annual budget to raze poorly-maintained homes, in some instances some that haven’t been lived in for nearly two decades.
He said a special program should be established because Boardman Township does not qualify for Neighborhood Stabilization Funds.
Mr. Loree told Trustees “We have to tackle this problem and assess some of the worst properties that we could demolish...Rather than let neighborhoods get worse, I would like to address this issue head-on.
“At some point, we may have to figure out a way to put some money in the budget for this.”
Mr. Loree said that Roger Smith, of the local Lien Forward agency supported by the Mahoning County Treasurer’s Office had suggested to him that last year there were upwards of 800 property foreclosures in Boardman Township.
“Some people have just walked away from their property,” Mr. Loree said.
Mr. Loree indicated that Lein Forward refused to provide statistical data on the foreclosure figures to Boardman Township.
Mr. Loree told Trustees on Monday night that while there were a reported 800 foreclosures in Boardman last year, there were some 20,000 foreclosures in Youngstown.
Trustee Larry Moliterno suggested that Boardman Township should get a demolition program underway “as soon as possible.”
Mr. Loree said a program developed in Austintown by former Boardman Zoning Inspector Darren Crivelli, who now serves in the same position in Austintown, shows home demolitions can be done for anywhere between $3000 to $5000.
On that note, Mr. Loree said if a list was developed of some of the most poorly maintained sites in Boardman Township, perhaps a demolition project for all those properties on the list could be bid out, lowering the price for demolishing each, individual structure.
Mr. Loree said commercial properties are much more expensive to demolish.
For example, the Terrace Motel on market St. has stood vacant for upwards of six years, after the Boardman Police Department shut it down after the facility operated largely as a crack house.
“A structure like that could cost as much as $250,000 to demolish,” Mr. Loree said.
The administrator indicated if Boardman Township embarks on a demolition program, the township should also ‘take care of its own house.’ Mr. Loree indicated the former Boardman Township Road Department building and a Boardman Fire Department storage garage should be demolished.
Township Fiscal Officer William Leicht cautioned Trustees not to move too quickly on establishing a demolition program.
He suggested a five-year projection of finances indicated a shrinking revenue stream to the township over the next five years.
“We need to meet more than twice a month...to discuss this,” Mr. Leicht said, indicating the township faces at least a “very modest” 2 per cent increase in operating costs over the next five years.
Mr. Loree suggested unless a full-scale demolition program was instituted, any lesser effort would be like “putting lipstick on a pig.”