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‘I’ve had to learn how to use a gun:’ North Main Street business owners upset with crime

A few business owners have joined a growing chorus of voices that are calling for a greater police presence and more patrols along Dayton’s Main Street corridor.

“Since arriving in Dayton, I’ve had to learn to how to use a gun — I have to carry one with me at all times,” said Milad Wahed, a Virginia transplant who is working to renovate 54 apartments on Ryburn Ave.

Some residents for years have urged the city to add more police and increase patrols in the North Main Street area.

City leaders say they are well aware of the challenges facing the area but hope to see progress in reducing crime and traffic issues with some new strategies.

“We really all do care about this,” said Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams. 

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RELATED: Dayton residents fed up with North Main Street crime seek help

Earlier this month, Timothy Vanderhorst spoke to the Dayton City Commission during a public comment portion of their regular meeting. Vanderhorst is the co-owner of Main Hardware, at 3016 N. Main St.

Vanderhorst said he is worried that drug users and other shady characters may be scaring away his customers.

He said there have been break-ins in the area and he’s found people sleeping in the entryway to his business. He said he regularly has to pick up litter outside that includes whiskey bottles, beer cans and used condoms.

“I’m sure you get the point,” he told the Dayton City Commission. “This kind of activity does not lend itself to being a profitable area to operate a business.”

Wahed is working to renovate the three vacant apartment buildings on the 300 block of Ryburn Ave.

Wahed said progress on the project has been slowed because of problems with drug users and others breaking in and trying to steal materials. 

Wahed said he lives in a trailer on the site because he cannot risk leaving and giving criminals an opportunity to break in.

He said the policing level is unacceptable and that section of the city has been neglected.

He said it took police more than 70 minutes to show up after he reported a break in.

RELATED: Calls for more policing after community activist attacked

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she lives not far from Ryburn and Main Hardware.

She said she understands their frustration but the drug market has moved away from residences and now take place in parking lots and commercial areas, which makes it harder to nab criminals.

The city is employing a multi-prong strategy to combat crime and traffic problems in the North Main Street area, which includes a place-based approach that seeks to disrupt crime networks, city officials said.

A group that includes staff from multiple city departments have been meeting to discuss crime and quality of life issues on North Main Street and what can be done to combat them, said Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph.

“We are not ignoring it, we’re feeling it, and hopefully we’ll see some fruit being borne here,” he said.

Main Hardware opened in 1987. Neighborhood conditions have deteriorated considerably since around the turn of the century, when drug users and prostitutes started showing up in larger numbers, Vanderhorst said.

But Vanderhorst said he’s noticed fewer shady characters around his business in recent weeks, which he believes to be tied to the closure of a couple local drug houses.

In November, police raided a home on Ashwood Avenue and arrested two after finding suspected fentanyl, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. He said another home was raided this month just a few blocks from his business.

“It’s made a tremendous difference,” he said. “I hope they continue with the good work they’ve been doing to close these places.”

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