Reynoldsburg resident Rochelle McKean brought her concerns about safe neighborhoods to city council Monday, prompting a discussion about the need for money to hire more police officers.

Reynoldsburg resident Rochelle McKean brought her concerns about safe neighborhoods to city council Monday, prompting a discussion about the need for money to hire more police officers.

McKean has three children who attend Reynoldsburg schools. She said she and her husband, Jim, moved to Reynoldsburg 10 years ago and bought a home near Slate Ridge Boulevard and Ravine Way more than three years ago.

She told council some residents in the area are considering moving out of the neighborhood because of the growing crime and safety problems.

"We're very concerned about our community as we've gone through the growing process of what's happening with safety in Reynoldsburg between the junior high and the high school," McKean said. "It's getting worse and it's getting to the point where our children are afraid to walk from one school to the other, and I want to know what we can do as a community."

McKean said she is ready to circulate petitions to be signed by concerned residents and suggested maybe a town meeting is needed to discuss these issues further.

"It took me 30 years to decide on my home and I picked Reynoldsburg. Since I've been here, I have three children, and I have watched every one of their friends up to about 10 move and leave because of what we no longer have to offer that we used to have," McKean said.

She said she's particularly disturbed when she hears Reynoldsburg referred to as "Ghettoburg."

Councilman Mel Clemens, who represents Ward 4, where the high school and Baldwin Road Junior High are located, said he had some answers.

"Two things are the problem. One is, people expect us to raise their children, which is bad because they let them run loose. The second is, we need more police officers," Clemens said.

He said the city has asked for a tax levy twice in the last four years that would have provided two 24-hour police patrols instead of one in all four wards of the city. Both levies were turned down by voters.

"We're in darn need of more safety and more police officers ... and people have to understand we have to go back to the ballot ... we don't have the money to support more police officers and we certainly need them," Clemens said.

"We have a crime committee that is working hard in our district (Ward 4) that the mayor is involved with and the chief of police and councilmen and others, and they are doing a good job with what we have, but it all boils down to additional people for our police department," he said.

Clemens said he would like to see 50 or 100 residents come to a council meeting and voice their concerns.

"You'd be surprised how people vote here on city council when they're staring at 75 people that want action," Clemens said.

He said school children need to be protected once they get out of school and in the neighborhoods at night.

"I've lived here 50 years and I've seen it go from where you didn't lock your doors with four little kids to where now you're afraid to let them go out in the front yard, and that is not good," he said.

"We have to get into a situation where the public comes down here and tells us just what they think and what they want done. Then we can explain to them how we can accomplish that," Clemens said. "I don't know how we can do it unless we get the people here ... I'd love to see 100 people here and complain about us, really."

Mayor Brad McCloud said he met two weeks ago with police and school officials, including safety service director Pam Boratyn, in response to criminal incidents that have occurred near Baldwin Road Junior High and the high school.

"It's unacceptable ... I went to high school here, too, and some of the changes have not been positive," McCloud said. "There are a couple aggravating factors that I hope will be somewhat short-term. The elimination of busing has not been a positive development because we have an influx of children who are just massed together as they leave, rather than getting on buses and dispersing.

"That has been an impact, but it's not the only one," he said. "We also have an outside influence where kids from some of the other communities come in and these are problem kids. In response to that, we've had the high school implement the ID requirement in order to attend football and basketball games."

McCloud said the city is working on a solution but has limited resources.

"As a community, we have to increase our expectations of each other, of kids, and we need to all play a part in holding each other accountable," Councilwoman Leslie Kelly said.

Council President William Hills said he appreciated McKean speaking to council about safety concerns, but noted the city's budget is very tight. In order to have more police officers, more money will have to come in, he said.

McCloud will present a code enforcement report to council's safety committee during its May 3 meeting and Hills said safety issues will continue to be discussed.

"The chain of communication has been opened between the residents and the city," he said. "We're more than willing to try and work with them with their suggestions and ideas. That's what it's about -- getting good communication -- and we got that tonight because we have residents come in."