Wheeling Police Addressing Crime at Mount Wood Overlook
Mount Wood Overlook in North Park is known for its spectacular view of the city, yet it also has been a troubled area, riddled with misdemeanor crimes ranging from underage consumption to drug use.
“Over the past several months and years, misdemeanors like drinking and marijuana have taken place there,” said Wheeling Police Department spokesman Philip Stahl.
According to Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, officers have been monitoring the area, noting the spike in crimes over the years.
“We continue to patrol the area, driving by and getting out on foot,” said Schwertfeger. “Signs are posted that the overlook is closed after dusk. Officers check regularly due to consistency of illegal activity.”
Though the overlook is off limits after 10 p.m., people are still discovered there taking part in suspicious activity during both the night and day.
“A lot of calls are self-initiated by the officers who patrol the North Park area. Some also are probably called in by those living in the area,” said Schwertfeger.
He believes there is a way to keep people out of the area at night, however.
“Possibly having a gate to close the area at night. … (But) criminal activity has no boundary. Just like other places, the area is dark and there are places people can converge while being out of sight from someone driving by,” said Schwertfeger.
In 2017, officers received 85 calls to the Mount Wood Overlook with most, if not all being officer initiated, according to Schwertfeger. Suspicious vehicles have been reported at the overlook twice last week on Monday and Tuesday with teenagers found spray painting the area Tuesday afternoon.
While the origin of the overlook is sketchy, a newspaper article written decades ago by Monroe Worthington suggested the castle property was owned by Dr. Andrew J. Harness who bought it from the city of Wheeling in 1921 for $10. It was Harness who sought to build a castle-like home for his wife. However, the story gets a bit sketchy from there. It is believed that the good doctor ended up in prison for illegal drug sales. After serving his time, he never returned to Wheeling or his castle project.
Today, the area also is riddled with trash consisting predominantly of beer and liquor bottles.
Jake Dougherty Executive Director of Wheeling Heritage has thoughts on how these actions could be addressed.
“It needs work done to it. I think that a couple things that would be beneficial are improved lighting and general maintenance of the site,” said Dougherty.
“The lot itself needs maintenance and the structure needs improvements to be brought back into the standing that it should be.” Dougherty doesn’t want the present crime and disrepair at the overlook to affect the public’s access to the site.
“What’s really amazing about that site is it is a great perspective on the city and to view the area. It is quite remarkable,” said Dougherty.
“We have had some drawings around that, and the (nearby Mount Wood) cemetery is obviously a connection to the area, (but) I think those are some small fixes that would help lead up to bigger changes.”
Dougherty said no short term intentions for the site have been planned by Wheeling Heritage at this time.