Police turn up different kind of heat Martins Ferry

T-L Photo/JANELL HUNTER Martins Ferry Police Officer Shamus Nixon plays ball with 4-year-old Braxton Hall at a Jaycee Manor Crime Watch/Martins Ferry Police Department community event on Friday. See related photo on page A2.

MARTINS FERRY — Many people hold cookouts during the summer months, but not everyone gets to cook out with the cops.

Residents of Jaycee Manor Apartments were treated to such an event this weekend, after they organized a new Crime Watch group and held several meetings with Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland. The apartment complex on Ohio Avenue has been plagued by a variety of issues in recent years. Those troubles range from crime to crumbling infrastructure. Two major sinkholes have opened up near the apartment buildings in the past couple of years; the area also has been the site of several crimes, the most serious of which was the November 2015 shooting death of 21-year-old Gregg Thompson.

Jaycee Manor resident Frank Smith said he became fed up with criminal activity in the neighborhood, and that is why he founded the new organization.

“I was seeing some illegal things happening and I didn’t like it,” Smith said of his decision to launch the new Crime Watch about two months ago.

Smith said his action was largely spurred by concern for neighborhood children. The event held Friday gave those same kids a rare opportunity to interact with local police officers and other community members, he noted.

“It’s a safe environment for the kids,” Smith said at the site of the cookout. “They are having a lot of fun, the most fun I’ve seen these kids have up here.”

Smith said organization members hope to hold a trunk or treat event for the children in October. He also expressed gratitude to all who donated to make the cookout a success.

“If it wasn’t for the FOP, half this probably wouldn’t happen,” Smith said. “I sure appreciate everything that was donated and all that. It is totally awesome.”

In addition to a wide variety of picnic-style food and drinks, the “Cookout with the Cops” featured fun and games, and children had the chance to explore a city fire truck. McFarland said 95 percent of the items for the event were donated by Jaycee Manor residents. Other contributors included the Fraternal Order of Police Association, city resident John Ayres and City Administrator Chris Cleary, among others.

“This is a chance for us to show the kids that police officers are here to help and that they shouldn’t run from us,” McFarland said of the cookout and the opportunity for officers to interact with neighborhood children.

The Jaycee Manor Crime Watch meets at 2 p.m. each Wednesday at the main office of the apartment complex.