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Editorial: No heroes in Cleveland

There are plenty of questions in Cleveland these days, but few garlands to bestow.

We read that a neighbor reported a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard of the house a few years ago, and about another who heard pounding on the home’s doors and noticed plastic bags over the windows.

They did what good neighbors should have done — called the police.

It’s reported that officers arrived at the house, but never went inside.

Now that three women who vanished a decade ago have been found captive inside the house, those perfunctory visits are a blot on the record of the department, which was already facing questions about its handling of missing-person cases.

That stems from an investigation four years ago, in another poverty-stricken part of town, when 11 women’s bodies were found in the home and backyard of Anthony Sowell, who was later convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In that case, families of the victims accused police of failing to properly investigate the disappearances because most of the women were addicted to drugs and poor. For months, the stench of death hung over the house, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.

In the wake of public outrage over the killings, a panel formed by the mayor recommended an overhaul of the city’s handling of missing-person and sex-crime investigations.

Now, the city is conducting yet another internal review.

In the end, the women had to rescue themselves, kicking out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and using a neighbor’s telephone to call 911.

“Help me. I’m Amanda Berry,” she told a dispatcher. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s.

Three brothers, ages 50 to 54, have been arrested ... but why did it take so long? Why did no other neighbors notice the blue tarp surrounding the backyard, the covered windows? Some actually visited the home, but failed to discern its secrets.

There are no heroes in this story, only missed opportunities and sadness.

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