Update 10:22 p.m.: Following the USA Today report, Cleveland Police walked back on their previous statement and admitted that they had actually received two 911 calls regarding the Castro house, neither of which appears to be related to the kidnappings. The police statement reads:
Upon researching our call intake system extensively, only two calls for service from police are shown at that address. One call was from the resident, Ariel Castro, reporting a fight in the street. The second call was in relation to an incident regarding Ariel Castro and his duties as a bus driver.
(Click here for complete coverage of the Cleveland kidnappings.)
Original Post: The case of the three women held captive for a decade in Cleveland reaches a new level of absurdity with a Tuesday night report detailing the many warning signs that police appear to have ignored. USA Today says that not one not two but at least three neighbors called the police between 2011 and 2012 to report suspicious activity at the house where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped their years-long imprisonment on Monday. We're not talking about the watering-the-flowers-at-midnight brand of suspicious activity. We're talking women-being-led-around-the-yard-on-dog-leashes suspicious. Some might just call that sick. (Add it to the list.)
Cleveland Police missed something. That much is clear. Despite the department's obviously extended effort to find the victims, the sheer volume of tips that would have led them to the Castro home is starting to looking pretty condemning. While some are calling the USA Today report "mostly hearsay," it's hard to believe that so many different neighbors would've made such similar calls. Some reported inexplicably large amounts of McDonalds being carried into the house by Ariel Castro, one of the three brothers and a school bus driver. Others reported seeing women standing in the windows of the Castro house and at least once incident of a woman pounding on a window, after which they called the police.
The leash stuff really is twisted, though. "[Neighborhood] women told Lugo they called police because they saw three young girls crawling on all fours naked with dog leashes around their necks," the report reads. "Three men were controlling them in the backyard. The women told Lugo they waited two hours but police never responded to the calls." Again, this is just one of several incidents that neighbors say they reported to police, incidents that the Cleveland Police didn't follow up on. It's not just the USA Today piece that's making these claims either. Local news outlets are issuing similar reports.
Despite the volume of reports — The New York Times published a similarly condemning story after USA Today's — Cleveland Police not only say they did nothing wrong. A police spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday that they never even received any calls. Hard to believe? You bet. Understandably evasive? Sure. But it's certainly no get-out-of-jail free card. (Pardon the bad pun.) As Reuters' Jim Roberts put it, "Hard to see how this Cleveland story ends well for the Police Department there."