During the early afternoon hours of Aug. 18, workers hit a gas line in front of the United Methodist Children's Home (UMCH). All day, traffic was diverted from North High Street to allow the line to be fixed.

During the early afternoon hours of Aug. 18, workers hit a gas line in front of the United Methodist Children's Home (UMCH). All day, traffic was diverted from North High Street to allow the line to be fixed.

As 7 p.m. neared, police opened one lane of traffic into the Children's Home, where neighbors were to finally meet with the UMCH officials responsible for the youths who, some say, have terrorized nearby neighborhoods all summer.

But it was more than the odor of gas wafting through the grounds that made the atmosphere explosive that evening.

Despite the best efforts of UMCH staff who attempted to talk about the good work the home does for troubled teenagers, the 200-plus neighbors continued to bring the conversation back to the point.

They are scared, and they want UMCH to control its residents or to move out of Worthington.

"It is time to reconsider your business model or to get out of this community," said Doug Foust.

Foust said he was born in Worthington and has watched the Children's Home change over the years.

Eight years ago, his son had his bicycle stolen, then had a wheel stolen from a second.

The bike, the wheel, stolen stereo equipment and other stolen items were found in the room of a UMCH resident. No one on the staff knew what was happening.

Six years ago, a gun was found on campus.

And there has been a steady stream of runaways, assaults, thefts and other crimes both on campus and in the community since then, he said.

"The fact is, these people don't have a clue," Foust said.

The moderator for the meeting asked the audience to hold its applause, but it refused.

Police Chief Michael Mauger said there have been 29 reports of runaways this year, and that students have gone on three crime sprees since May.

In June, two of the residents mugged an elderly resident as she waited for a bus. They knocker her down and stole her purse. She suffered a broken elbow and may never regain use of her arm.

On the evening of Aug. 8, five boys ran away from UMCH and ran through the streets of Worthington Estates. They broke into approximately 18 cars, punched a man who refused to hand over his car keys, stole bikes and a car.

One boy was arrested by Worthington police on a stolen bike. The others wrecked the car in Columbus, stole another car, and continued their crime spree in that city. Three were arrested by Columbus police, and one returned to UMCH on his own the next day.

Three of the five continue to live at UMCH.

The Children's Home is a residential care facility for boys ages 11-18 who have been referred by Franklin County Children Services (FCCS) or another agency. Approximately 70 percent have criminal records. They are placed on the campus to receive mental health services.

They have been victims of crime, abuse, or neglect; have mental health diagnoses; and have behavioral challenges, according to written information distributed at the meeting.

UMCH is not a lock-down facility, and boys can only be restrained if they are judged to be an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Therefore, cottages are not locked, and boys can leave campus at will. Once they leave, UMCH staff is to call Worthington Police.

There are delayed egress doors on the cottages, so that staff is alerted when someone leaves. Two cottages have security cameras, and a campus supervisor is to be on duty 24 hours a day.

Several people asked who is liable for the actions of the residents, and who has the authority to determine if the home stays open or closes.

A board of trustees makes decisions about the home, and UMCH and the West Ohio Conference own the land. UMCH is considered a 501c3 organization.

A man who identified himself as the attorney for UMCH tried to answer some of the questions.

"If someone is injured, who will compensate?" he asked. "I don't know how to respond."

Neighbor Maggie Neely asked for the names of the board of trustees, and that a moratorium to be in effect until a solution is found.

"Put zero kids in this facility until you can figure it out," she said.

Another woman in the audience placed the responsibility on the city.

"We need city council to step up and make this a safe place to live," she said.

Council members Bonnie Michael and Mike Duffey attended the meeting, as did city manager Matt Greeson.

A second meeting has been planned for Sept. 21.

"We are committed to stay engaged," Greeson said.