Crime is a frequent complaint from Canton residents. A city landlord feels so strongly he’s taken the unusual step of posting professionally-printed signs at his rental sites critical of the mayor’s response to crime. The landlord also has some beefs involving garbage collection.
Residents have voiced concern and rage over crime that riddles some city neighborhoods. Landlords speak out, too, on occasion.
They plead to the mayor, safety director, police chief and City Council for an answer to their woes.
Many times they cry out for more police officers to patrol the streets and to respond to calls about thefts, gunshots and other problems.
Roland “Ron” Burns III, who owns about 65 rental properties throughout the city, is speaking out loudly and boldly.
He shelled out $150 and got signs professionally printed and emblazoned with a concise message ripping the mayor for the city’s crime problems that he says plague some of his properties and make his tenants feel unsafe.
The signs carry a blunt message with a comedic touch: “Mayor Healy Tough on Crime? My ...” followed by the image of a donkey.
Copper, ducts and other items have been stolen from multiple properties. Bullets have pierced some properties, Burns said.
““I wanted to make sure (Healy) understood what I meant,” he said. “I wanted to be polite about it — that’s why we used the picture of the donkey.
“It’s a serious problem right now, and if we don’t address it soon, we’re not going to be able to fix it,” Burns said. “I think we’re going to be to the point where the cops are outgunned and that worries me.”
Mayor William J. Healy II isn’t blind to the concerns about crime.
“The reality is this: He’s absolutely right that crime is too high and we need a safer city,” he said. “You’ve never heard me say anything other than exactly that.”
Healy, citing statistics, said crime in the city had dropped since he took office in 2008 until increasing over roughly the last 12 months.
“It’s in direct relationship with the county jail,” Healy said, referring to the space crunch.
The sheriff’s department has indicated it plans on utilizing more bed space as revenue from a sales tax increase continues to pour into county government coffers.
“Nothing is more important ... (and) a bigger deterrent (to crime) than being locked up,” he said.
The landlord’s beef with the city extends beyond crime. It involves garbage pickup at a few of his rental properties.
A city health official says the health department has worked with Burns to rectify the problem at his 1749 Market Ave. N property, which includes several units. The issue — bags of trash placed outside the container — has led to complaints.
Burns said he’s tried to get a larger container from the city.
He appeared at a recent Board of Health meeting. The health department cleaned up the trash outside the garbage container recently. Burns also has cleaned it up more than once, said Mark Adams, a city health official.
Page 2 of 2 - Burns, meanwhile, is disputing the city’s handling of another garbage-related matter at another rental property. In that case, he said he’s contracted with a private waste hauler because he says the service costs less than Canton’s. But he said he’s still getting billed by the city for garbage collection.
The law department, meanwhile, says that Burns must contract with the city for sanitation service because it’s a dwelling.
Violating that city ordinance is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The law was passed in 1990.
Law Director Joseph Martuccio said he speculates the intent of the law is “to provide uniform services at a reasonable cost.”
Burns, who lives in Canton, says the city law doesn’t make sense. He also questions the quality and efficiency of the city’s trash service.
Burns suggests reducing the sanitation department staff and hiring more police officers. The departments, however, are funded from separate revenue sources. Burns said he would support a property tax increase so more police could be hired.
“We need the shootings to stop because the tenants need to feel safe in their own home,” he said. “We should not have to worry about getting shot while watching TV.”
The landlord, who has owned rental properties in Canton for about eight years, said he’s also upset because he has talked with employees in the mayor’s office but has not received calls from the mayor or safety director to discuss crime.
Healy said that Burns has talked with multiple city officials about at least some of his concerns, including the law department and sanitation department.
“He’s clearly gotten responses from the city,” the mayor said.
CALLING THE CITY
Michelle Chyatte, an assistant in the mayor’s office, said that Burns’ inquiries with the mayor’s office were related to sanitation department issues, not crime.
Burns says that he mentioned “police issues” on one of his recent calls.
A meeting between Burns and the service director is scheduled for next week to discuss the trash-related matters. Burns said he was told a meeting about crime would be scheduled after that.
Burns, meanwhile, says that crime must be addressed. He cited frustration with reporting thefts and other issues to police and having to wait on a response because of limited staffing.
Healy said he empathizes with the landlord.
“I get his frustration,” he said. “I’m equally as frustrated.” Police do a “fantastic job,” Healy said, but limited jail space continues to be a major problem in combating crime.
For information on city offices and services, go to www.cantonohio.gov.