Goetz gets people excited about village block watch
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 09 February 2013 08:15
WALBRIDGE - Looking out the window of his South Toledo home one night, little Jeff Goetz witnessed a horrifying accident that changed his life forever.
|Walbridge Ptl. Jeff Goetz is a Marine Corps veteran and has reinvigorated the village’s block watch program with a Sandy Hook speaker. On Wednesday, the topic is identity theft. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
When he was 4 years old, Goetz said he saw a car careen out of control on his street, flip over and shear off a tree.
"In the midst of all that carnage," Goetz remembered, "the officer got down (to the little boy's height) and asked me what happened.
"I just remember being so in awe of that. You're 4 years old and the officer's talking to you."
He said he chose his career that night.
Flash forward 20 years and Goetz is a part-time police officer for Walbridge and runs the block watch program.
He has reinvigorated the meetings by recruiting a counselor to talk about the Sandy Hook school shootings in January.
This month, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the town hall, the topic will focus on identity theft. The guest speaker is Aram Ohanian, an assistant Wood County prosecutor.
"It's our job as police, not to just enforce the law but also to educate," Goetz said
The purpose of block watch is to empower the public, he said.
When he talks to people in Toledo or outside of the village, many often comment that "Walbridge has no crime."
"I take that as a compliment because that means we're doing a great job," he said.
Block watch takes some public relations savvy to run. Goetz said he gets complaints from everything including grass clippings in the sewer to a prowler on the property.
And there has to be trust. No matter what the call from the "block watcher," police will respond, Goetz said.
"If they see suspicious activity, they let us know and we will go out and look at it," he said. "In block watch, they are our eyes and ears. If there's something out of the ordinary, they are going to spot it and get it to our attention right away."
After graduating from Rogers High School, Goetz joined the Marine Corps, where he served from 2006 to 2011. He did a tour in Iraq in 2009 where he worked in the armory and became a certified gunsmith.
A year before his military service ended, he e-mailed Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, asking what he needed to do to become a police officer. The sheriff told him that he should have Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission certification. Goetz went through the academy and when he got his OPOTA certificate, he hit the computer again.
Goetz said he e-mailed every police agency in all of Ohio's 88 counties, asking for a job.
Walbridge Police Chief Kenneth Frost said he was impressed when he saw Goetz's inquiry in his inbox. Finding out that Goetz was military sealed the deal.
"He handles himself very professionally. He's good with people, a good communicator," Frost said of Goetz.
Including Frost and Goetz, there are four paid officers and three auxiliary in Walbridge who are veterans.
Goetz is a full-time criminal justice student at Owens Community College and expects to graduate in another year.
He became a Walbridge part-time officer in March. On duty, he runs radar, does routine patrols and handles calls for service.
But block watch and getting residents to meetings is never far from his mind.
"Every empty seat at my meetings is a missed opportunity for empowerment."