West Side residents are calling for a cohesive neighborhood stand against crime and more visible law enforcement patrols after a Plymouth Avenue home was firebombed early Wednesday apparently in retaliation for a couple's public stand against drugs.
Anthony and Betty Serio's house at 400 Plymouth St. sustained extensive damage after what is believed to be two Molotov cocktails were thrown through the front window about 4:45 a.m.
The Serios are known throughout the community for circulating petitions against drug trafficking in their neighborhood.
Fire investigators are continuing their probe.
Arson Detective Robert T. Meegan said Wednesday of the Serios' claim that the incident was related to their stand against drugs, "We haven't come up with anything that would confirm or deny their claim."
Mrs. Serio said, "Through the grapevine about three weeks ago, we were told that we were 'marked.' I thought they'd shoot us or something. For the last few weeks we've been watching our backs, like parking our car in different places, but we figured something would happen."
The couple, who said they were sleeping at the time of the incident, were jolted out of bed by the sound of breaking glass.
"We saw our parlor all lit up -- there was fire all over the parlor," she said. "I called upstairs to my son and told him to get the kids out and then called 9-1-1."
The couple's son, Joe, and his 12 and 15-year-old children were also asleep at the time.
"That's five counts of attempted murder as far as I'm concerned," Joe Serio said.
"I heard a smash and I immediately jumped up. I knew it was our house. I got my kids, made sure they got something on their feet right away, got their clothes on and we got out," he said.
Now, the Serios' West Side neighbors are saying enough is enough.
"The crime watch is just that -- they watch the crime from inside the house," a West Avenue resident said about many of his neighbors. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
"All of these people around here need to be getting together as one. There are only a few of us that speak out," he said. "Are you going to be afraid for your own safety or afraid for the families in our community? You have to stand up. What else are you going to do?"
Besides the unified community effort against crime, West Side residents also believe police patrols on foot or bicycle throughout the neighborhood would help to cut down significantly on the drug and prostitution rings they say have taken over their neighborhoods.
"(The Serios) voiced their position on TV and they got it," said Ray Brooks of West Avenue. "(The criminals) are telling us we don't belong here, so something's wrong. Somebody has got to help us because we're fighting a losing battle."
Anyone with any information relating to the fire can call the Fire Department's investigation unit at 851-4515.