The terrifying saga of the three Cleveland women rescued Monday after they were held in a house for ten years has an unsettling coda: Police apparently visited the home of suspect Ariel Castro at least twice, and neighbors said they called the cops several more times over the years about suspicious activity there. One neighbor, Elsie Cintron, told USA Today her daughter had called police after seeing a naked woman crawling in the backyard on her hands and knees, but “they didn’t take it seriously.” The city, meanwhile, says there’s no record of any such report.
“We have no indication that any of the neighbors, bystanders, witnesses or anyone else has ever called regarding any information, regarding activity that occurred at that house on Seymour Avenue,” Mayor Frank Jackson said at a press conference on Tuesday, according to Reuters. Police said they did visit the house once in 2004 on an unrelated call, but got no answer: “They said they combed through records and found no other calls to the house nor reports of anything amiss in the years the women were missing.”
Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, told both USA Today and Reuters that he and several others contacted the police three times over the past two years. Lugo said he called in 2011 “after his sister saw a girl at the house holding a baby and crying for help.” Officers went to the house and banged on the door but left when no one answered. He also said his mother reported seeing Castro bring a suspiciously large bag of fast food into the house. Then there’s this:
A third call came from neighborhood women who lived in an apartment building. Those women told Lugo they called police because they saw three young girls crawling on all fours naked with dog leashes around their necks. Three men were controlling them in the backyard. The women told Lugo they waited two hours but police never responded to the calls.
There are plenty of other disturbing details about the women’s treatment in the USA Today story and elsewhere. But the troubling news for the rest of Cleveland should be the disconnect between the witnesses’ accounts of their calls and the absence of police records accounting for them. This might just be a few neighbors trying to grab some of the spotlight, but it could very well indicate that there’s a major problem with how the police department responds to the citizens it’s charged with protecting.