WILMINGTON — Locals expressed their concerns over vagrancy issues in the city during Thursday’s Wilmington City Council meeting.
Jane Johns spoke at length about worrying behavior and issues she said she witnessed and investigated involving individuals in town, specifially in the downtown area.
“I am about beautifying Wilmington … I want pride, I want things to be safe for our children. What I’m noticing is a huge flaw. That flaw is that we have such a huge vagrant problem that our crime rate is skyrocketing since 2014,” said Johns.
She cited data she collected, including from the FBI. She said according to her research, in 2021 the chances of being affected by crime in Wilmington was 1 in 33. She also advised the FBI cited Wilmington as “not one of the safest communities in America.”
She talked about local businesses being afraid of being robbed by vagrants and she discussed ongoing litter issues she believes involves them as well. She shared with council photos of the drug paraphernalia she has located.
She told council she believes issues are due to people seen around Sugartree Ministries, citing finding flyers associated with Sugartree.
She referenced an incident where she saw two men across the street from Your Father’s Kitchen get into a fight, with one of them being tossed into the road and nearly struck by a vehicle.
“I really thought I saw a dead man that day,” she said.
She also advised the council her discoveries upon “going undercover” as a vagrant and discovered concerning behavior including drug usage and thefts. She advised she’s witnessed children’s bikes being stolen.
“I’m not giving up on this city, like I feel like everyone else has. I’m stuck here, my husband built a beautiful house. We’re not giving up on it,” she said. “We need to protect those children. The children in this town are the most important people in this city, because they going to be taking care of us in the future.”
Other locals spoke about similar concerns they had. Police Chief Ron Fithen addressed concerns including those involving a house where apparent multiple illegal activities had occurred.
Fithen advised they wanted to make sure they have a good case going when going forward with charges.
Also during council:
• Advocates for the late Casey Pitzer asked officials to investigate her death again due to what they believe was an improper investigation from law enforcement after Pitzer was found deceased in a retention pond in 2013. Officials investigated and found her death to be by drowning, but family and friends of Pitzer believe she was a victim of foul play.
• Council performed the third and final reading approving an ordinance establishing salaries for city jobs. This ordinance includes the elimination of the city administration position.
• Council agreed to a resolution authorizing Mayor John Stanforth to apply for funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Canopy Restoration Grant Program. The money would go to a tree planting project planned for Rombach Avenue. The trees planted would go from Bush Auto to Progress Way.
• Joshua Engel was appointed by council to be the city’s representative for the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sam Stratman, who previously served in that post, resigned his position.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574