The Connect 2 Protect Block Watch (C2PBW) was formalized in January 2020, and is an outgrowth of the Merion Village Block Watch.
In the early 2000’s, The Merion Village Safety Committee lead by Martin Cataline was a very active Safety Committee, with many members. Members met at the Merion Village Info Center. To this day, area firemen and Police still talk about how Martin and Joann Mase fed them big meals every month at the Safety Committee meetings! In January 2015, with the advent of the app Nextdoor, neighbors developed an increasing awareness that similar crimes were happening with more frequency in Merion Village. Which led the Association into determining what needed to be done to become a Columbus Police Department (CPD) Block Watch. Anthony Dillard, the then Safety Committee Chairperson, met with the Columbus Police Department and expressed the community’s interest in becoming a CPD Block Watch. Following the meeting, Anthony & Mary Cannon began taking measures to become a Block Watch that would be recognized by the City and the CPD. Their efforts included participating in Block Watch training classes, led by Officer Robin Medley, that lasted 3 months. Finally, in March, it was announced “We are starting a block watch program”, and the first official Merion Village Block Watch meeting was held at St. Paul’s on Gates on March 18, 2015 at 6:30 PM.
Mary Cannon co-chaired the Block Watch along with Anthony until he moved from the area. Following Anthony’s departure, Mary was the single Block Watch Coordinator for 4 years. Under Mary’s leadership a relationship, built on mutual trust and respect, between the Block Watch and the CPD was established. In July of 2018, Mary passed the torch to Dee Debenport and Michelle Kulewicz.
Dee and Michelle wanted to expand the capabilities of the Block Watch and decided that to do so, would require longer meeting times and technology. The decision to expand the time to 90 minutes and move to the Parson’s Avenue Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library was coordinated with Officer Robin Medley, the 11th Precinct Community Liaison Officer, the core Block Watch attendees, and the Merion Village Association.
In the Winter of 2019, Merion Village Block Watch reached out to Friends of Schiller, Schumacher Place Civic, and Schiller Park Recreation Center to see if they had interest in combining forces to hold a Neighbors’ National Night Out (NNO) in Schiller Park. Each group gladly signed on and dug in, and for the first time a combined NNO neighborhood event was held Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Dee recalled, that at the NNO event, she looked over the Park, and it became clear to her that “together, our different neighborhoods are strong, and that together we could do almost anything we set out to accomplish.” That evening the idea began to percolate that by combining the contiguous neighborhoods of Schumacher Place, German Village, Merion Village, and Brewery District into a single Block Watch could make a real difference in our community. Dee beat the drum over the next few months, reminding area residents people that we move easily and frequently between neighborhoods. She stressed that we need to be safe in our homes and safe on the streets that we travel, as we do in our day-to-day business. She reminded people that the four neighborhoods experience the same types of crimes and that frequently those crimes are committed by the same criminals. She crafted the structure of a unified block watch, acknowledging that while there are some differences, all of us share many of the same concerns like limited parking, opportunistic crime, homelessness and panhandling, and that by combining forces we would not only increase crime and safety awareness, but that by combining we would also maximize Police and City resources.
In October of 2019, the last neighborhood agreed to join the combined Block Watch, and so effective Jan. 1, 2020, the Merion Village Block Watch became the Connect 2 Protect Block Watch representing the neighborhoods of Brewery District, German Village, Merion Village, and Schumacher Place.
We hope that with time, hard work, and guided by the spirit of those that established the German Village Safety Committee, both the Merion Village Block Watch and Safety Committee, and the Civics in the Brewery District and Schumacher Place that the Connect 2 Protect Block Watch will have a positive impact on the community.