WEIRTON - Several residents spoke out during Monday's Weirton City Council meeting to voice their concerns for the safety of their children and homes as violence grows in the downtown area of the city.
One resident of the 3300 block of Orchard Street said she is concerned about the safety of her children as her family, and others, face death threats and sexual threats from other neighborhood residents. She said she has been labeled as a "cop-caller" and therefore is under continuous scrutiny.
She said her children continue to see violence and hear strong language and she is not sure what to do. She said she lives downtown because of the low rent and is trying to make a good life for her and her children, but wonders how she can be a good parent when her children are exposed to that sort of behavior.
A second resident on that same block said she's had several cars painted, tires slashed and windshields broken.
"The police respond quickly and are doing their jobs but there is just so much of it and without proof of what they are saying or doing, nothing can be done," they added.
A third resident claims to keep her children indoors because they are afraid to go outside. She said her children, along with several others, have been threatened to be "shot up" and said it's a scary thing to hear.
"If people weren't afraid of what would happen to them, there would be a lot more people here," she said while addressing council.
Police Chief Bruce Marshall said last week before the July 4, there were 15 arrests made in one day alone and over the past week there have been about 20 more. He said his officers have increased patrols and are executing a no tolerance policy.
"If these people are breaking the law and we can arrest them, they are going to get arrested," he said. "The unfortunate thing is that we can only control the situation so far and once they've been arrested, it's out of our hands and in the hands of the court."
City Attorney Vince Gurrera said those who have been arrested since July 1 have not yet been to court to face new consequences under the no tolerance policy but they will in the coming weeks. He said these people that continue to get arrested over and over think it's all a joke right now but they aren't going to get away with what they've done and eventually the city will see less and less crime in the area.
Marshall said there are officers downtown in unmarked vehicles which allow the police to make as many arrests as they do. He said it comes down to whether someone is breaking the law or not and when they do, they get arrested.
"Our records show that our presence is a deterrent," he said. "But, we can't catch everyone."
Ward 4 Councilman George Ash said he lives just a few blocks away from the area in question and his door is open to anyone who has an issue. He said he would support the city officers to the fullest extent of the law and do what he can because this kind of behavior us unacceptable.
"Light has come to this situation and people are standing up for their rights," he said. "It'll be over with soon so just be patient."
(Dickson can be contacted at email@example.com)