Cleveland case offers lessons

The discovery of three young women who were missing for more than a decade in Cleveland calls for action in several ways, the most basic of which is to know our own neighborhoods, if not our neighbors.

There was a time in America, back when front porches and stoops were the evening hangouts for families, that people knew the names of everyone on their block, all of their children and their pets. There was a time when the cop on the beat in that neighborhood knew everyone by name, their comings and goings, too.

It’s long past time since that was the case, and it’s long past time for the need for that to be the case again.

A house that seemed vacant apparently was the home of these three women, who were at the least held captive there.

There were nosy neighbors – and it wasn’t offensive snooping.

Police were called to the residence at least twice during the past decade, including once in response to a neighbor child reporting having seen a naked woman crawling in the back yard. The other time was in response to neighbors hearing banging on the doors of the house. A neighbor also reported seeing a small child in the home.

In the case of the naked woman report and the banging on the windows, neighbors did what they should. They called police, but, for whatever reason, the Cleveland police didn’t get into the home, didn’t push for more answers and simply walked away. This is a police department that came under heavy criticism a few years ago in a case where 11 missing women turned out to be dead and buried in a yard of a residence in a poor part of town, ironically not far from where the three women found Monday were captive.

We need to be sure we truly do know what’s going on in our neighborhoods, and not just to wait for gunfire or captives to escape. Know your neighbors. Know who belongs in your neighborhood. Know the comings and goings of cars, kids, workmen.

But in return, society needs police officers who take every call seriously.

If you’re wondering why in recent days the Steubenville Police Department has begun issuing citations for violations seemingly so small as failure to walk on the sidewalk in areas where gunfire has rung out this spring, look toward the situation in Cleveland. If every violation is taken seriously, it should become harder for crime to take root. If the police look the other way, neighbors could give up on their neighborhoods.

That didn’t happen in Cleveland, where the lead suspect apparently was so devious that he actually comforted the mother of one of the missing girls during a vigil. To say police response to a neighborhood was lacking in Cleveland is understating the case.

Without support from neighborhoods, the police cannot do their job.

In the Cleveland case, the opposite is exemplified. Without support from police, crime, even in the best of neighborhoods, will go unsolved.