CINCINNATI - The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has a reputation many people are trying to change but some members of the community are going an extra mile to make sure it happens.
Thursday marked Day 1 of Over-the-Rhine Citizens on Patrol training.
The group of 45 concerned citizens, all of whom completed an application to join the group, met for four hours at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Race Street.
Over the next three Thursdays, a dozen police instructors will go over topics and techniques that will enable them to conduct the patrol, observation and reporting of hazardous conditions or criminal activity in their community.
They'll receive a total of 12 in-class hours of training before they hit the streets.
The goal of the group is to work to paint a different picture of OTR, which has come to be seen in a negative light over the past few years.
While Cincinnati District 1 police say violent crime is down by 40 percent in the Over-the-Rhine area over the last five years and a plethora of social venues have recently popped up in the community, a negative stigma continues to mar the impression some people have of the historic neighborhood.
That's why Michael and Karen Hogue joined the patrol.
The couple moved to the neighborhood a year ago and since then have become ingratiated with the community.
"It's the first neighborhood where we got to know every neighbor on the street," Karen Hogue said.
It's that sense of belonging that inspired them to sign up for the patrol group and be part of positive change in OTR.
Michael Hogue said that while he loves his neighborhood, he understands that it comes with "nuisances" that bring with them certain "aggravations."
The desire to eliminate those problems is what inspired Michael Hogue, his wife and 42 other members of the community to help move OTR in the right direction.
District 1 commander, Capt. Gary Lee, says he's excited to have the new patrol group and believes having 45 new sets of eyes and ears will only help the neighborhood improve.
Lee said the residents who are moving to the area are bringing with them a desire to become stakeholders in neighborhood goings on.
He said that not only makes people who live in Over-the-Rhine more protective of the community but instills a sense of pride in those who call it home.
Local business owner Antonio Smith grew up in OTR and says he moved his business there to help continue the recent progress residents have made.
"I see a lot of new faces, new people coming into the area, walking around, a lot of people stopping in," said the owner of a beauty supply store.
Smith thinks the patrol group's presence will keep people from loitering, which he sees as part of the problem.
"I think (the group's) presence will deter a lot of people from just hanging out and just standing around," he said.
The first official duty for the newly formed OTR Citizens on Patrol group will be a few days after their public graduation on Aug. 3.
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