Chief Coontz

Mansfield Police Chief Ken Coontz. 

MANSFIELD -- Prior to taking ownership of the apartment complex at 87 Western Ave. in 2008, Jim Oberlin said the property was full of drugs and prostitutes.

"I prayed about it," he said. "I said, 'Lord, why would I buy something like this?'"

He considered how to clean up the property and started by having eight cameras installed. Subsequently, three or four tenants moved.

"They said we can't have them cameras. I said, 'Yeah you can, it's for your safety,'" Oberlin said, and has since installed 16 more cameras.

He's also met with Anthony Cochran, a man who lives across the street from the apartment complex, to address his concerns about disturbances and suspicious activity at 87 Western Ave.

"I'm sure there's stuff that happens in the parking lot that I can't control," Oberlin said. "There are public gatherings there. There are people who drop off their kids to have somebody else watch their kids. It's a community right there, but I try my darndest to try to keep it nice."

Mansfield City Council heard more on this subject during a safety committee meeting Tuesday night.

At-Large Councilman Don Bryant, who chairs the safety committee, said Cochran has spoken with him and other council members, along with the mayor's office and police department about safety concerns.

"There have been several avenues that w, as the cit,y have taken to address Mr. Cochran's claims," Bryant said.

Police Chief Ken Coontz said his department has worked hard to address Cochran's claims.

"We have gone out to Mr. Cochran's house and visited him personally," he said. "We tried to address all of his needs.

"I don't know how to be more blunt, but to say that some of the claims I believe are embellished. Some of them I believe may be occurring and just being undetected."

Coontz said there are approximately 24 units in the building, 20 of which are inhabited.

"I get it," he said. "There are 20 families living in that one piece of property so I expect that we're going to have some problems or some issues and going to have some police calls."

Over the last six months, police responded to 87 Western Ave. 27 times.

"There are a whole lot of communities within our city that would love to only have the police respond to their neighborhood 27 times," Coontz said.

Nearly half of the calls were disturbance-related, including loud music complaints. There was one domestic violence call and one drug offense.

Coontz said every day for three weeks, officers patrolled Western Avenue to respond to any criminal activity. Community policing officers, along with METRICH Enforcement Unit, have also gotten involved.

Lt. Joy Stortz, who recently retired from the department, played a hands-on role in surveying thie area and addressing Cochran's claims.

Coontz said when Stortz drove back and forth between the department and METRICH, she made it a point to go past 87 Western Ave.

"I'm not saying that things aren't happening," Coontz said. "I'm not saying that somebody doesn't go out into the parking lot and do a drug deal or that someone inside the building isn't a drug addict. I'm not saying that there isn't loud music going on, or disturbances, or someone committing some kind of crime.

"I'm just here to tell you that it's not at the level that's being purported, and it's also not at a level where city officials are just turning their back and not offering help to our citizens."

Fourth Ward Councilman Butch Jefferson asked the chief if any arrests had been made as a result of the 27 calls, adding that Cochran lives in his ward. Coontz said he didn't have that information but would be willing to get it for him.

A heated conversation ensued with Jefferson saying he would have thought the number of arrests was pertinent information.

"I'm not sure how much information you expect me to gather, but I'm pretty sure that I gathered plenty of information for you," Coontz responded.

Stortz said she's talked with Cochran probably 20 times.

"Every time he called, I went to his house, I called him back, I took his intels, I drove by his house, I sat and did surveillance, I did everything the man asked," she said. "I don't know what else you want us to do. We can't be in Mr. Cochran's driveway 24/7. We've got other issues in Mansfield, Ohio."

She added that Oberlin has gone out of his way to try to make the property safe.

"This guy takes care of his people," she said of Oberlin. "He takes care of his apartment complex because he's trying to cut out the criminal activity."

Law Director John Spon said he told Cochran if he saw criminal activity, he should record it. Spon said he's yet to receive any footage.

"I do know that there have been more public officials that have talked to Mr. Cochran than any other public citizen maybe in the history of the City of Mansfield," Spon said.

Support Our Journalism

Do you want to know the who, what, where, why and how in local news? Become a Source member to support the most diverse coverage of our region.

 

Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.