City, YNDC Pursue Anti-Crime Grant for South Side

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Local leaders should know by late summer the results of an application for a federal grant to implement a multifaceted plan to address crime in a targeted area on the South Side.

A partnership that includes Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., the city of Youngstown, the city police department and Youngstown State University’s Regional Economic Development Initiative is seeking the grant from the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program.

The $850,000 grant, if awarded, would be used to implement strategies developed for a cross-sector plan to reduce crime in an area bordered by Hillman Street, Interstate 680, Shady Run Road and East Midlothian Boulevard, identified as having the concentration of crime in the city.

Hotspots for crime identified within that area include the Market Street and South Avenue corridors, the Cottage Grove area and the Taft neighborhood.

“This is a huge project but if we can get that grant award it will definitely be huge for this part of the city,” said Ian Beniston, YNDC’s executive director. The idea is to identify root causes of crime and put plans in place to address those drivers, he said.

“It’s a group effort of several different components to eliminate blight and improve living conditions in the targeted areas,” said Police Chief Robin Lees.

Much of what YNDC does – and the city as well – is try to improve the quality of life in the city, Mayor John McNally said. “It really starts on the main corridors and peels off into the neighborhoods,” he continued.

The strategies, developed using a $155,522 Byrne planning grant awarded in 2015, include increased police presence, small grants to businesses to pay for safety improvements, blight elimination, vacant lot improvements and initiatives such as youth sport leagues and after-school programs to give kids something to do as an alternative to antisocial behaviors.

The strategic plan is “largely completed” and is now being reviewed by the Local Initiatives Support Corp., a technical assistance provider for the Department of Justice, Beniston said. He anticipated approval in 30 days with only “minor tweaks” required, he said.

“We will incorporate their feedback and then submit for final approval to the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance,” he said.

On Thursday, the city Board of Control approved a partnership agreement memorandum of understanding between the city, Youngstown Police Department and YNDC for the purpose of participating in the implementation process.

“The police department, will through extra patrols, step up enforcement in the areas affected and try to again help stabilize the area as YNDC engages in rehabilitation to the areas as well,” Lees said.

YPD worked with YSU to analyze the data to determine the target area for the grant, said Capt. Jason Simon, the department contact for the initiative. They reviewed 10 years of data, he said.

In addition, YNDC monitored YNDC canvassers as they surveyed homeowners and performed security assessments and made recommendations to businesses on the South Side, he said.

“A lot of it is very simple things,” Simon said. Some of the recommendations included addressing lack of lighting or adding security cameras, which now are available inexpensively, he said.

Seven businesses were provided small grants from the Byrne grant to address crime prevention issues, Beniston said. Funds also were used to hire the canvassers.

Last year the city in conjunction with the state resurfaced South Avenue from Williamson Avenue to East Midlothian and upgraded curbs and traffic signals along the corridor, McNally said. This year, the city will move forward on $75,000 in greening projects on the roadway and pursue demolition of some properties, part of the 518 structures he said last week he wants to take down this year.

Among the South Avenue structures the city is looking at taking down is the three-story former Colonial Letter Shop building, he said.

“We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get that down,” he said. Structures would be demolished using demolition or environmental sanitation money, not funds from the Byrne grant, McNally said.

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