City of Warren forms task force for bars

WARREN – As a response to the New Year’s day murder of Cory Blackwell and the closing of the Sunset Lounge several days later, the city’s administration, law and police departments are forming a task force to investigate multiple complaints filed against bars and other establishments in the city.

“The task force will look at establishments in which our police department has to respond to multiple calls, or we have multiple calls from residents or their clients,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.

Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said the focus will not be on the number or frequency of calls, but on the type of calls they receive.

“We are concerned about the safety of our residents,” he said. “If we have an establishment in which we are receiving numerous calls about fighting, drug dealing, thefts and shootings, we will look at them. It is not for complaints about a bar being too loud.

“This is for the sole purpose of cracking down on unlawful and unruly establishments,” Franklin said. “We are not targeting bars. We will use the same standards in looking at any establishment, store or household.”

Franklin said the new emphasis ties in with the city’s effort to be a business-friendly community.

“We believe a safe community is a business friendly community,” he said.

The city’s agreement with Sunset Lounge owner Joseph Sankey which led to the closing of the bar provided the city an unexpected benefit of some other area bars approaching the administration to find what they must do to stay out of trouble.

“We’ve already sat down with the owner of one bar and have been contacted by some others,” Franklin said. “The owners want to review city policies and procedures. They basically want to stay on the right side so we will not file a nuisance charges against them.”

Franklin said the city already is looking at the record of several bars to determine what, if any, actions should be taken against them.

On Wednesday, several Woodbine Avenue residents complained to City Council about the increased frequency of shootings, drug dealing and fights happening at one store on Youngstown Road near their homes.

Cantalamessa said if the residents complaints are backed up by police records of calls that is the type of complaints in which the city could use the nuisance laws.

“We want businesses to take responsibility of what happens on the inside and on the outside of their properties,” he said.