Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department testified in front of City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Monday to address the local increase in homicides.
The city’s homicide rate hit 25 per 100,000 residents in 2013, compared to the U.S. rate of 4.7 per 100,000 in 2012, following a spike in homicides in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati, according to police statistics.
“The concern has been the sheer number of homicides we experienced in 2013 and the number of juvenile victims we had this year,” said Assistant Chief Dave Bailey.
Councilman Christopher Smitherman also highlighted the high levels of black-on-black crime, which Chief Jeffrey Blackwell agreed are unacceptable across the country.
“My fear is that my son, who’s African-American … is going to be killed by another African-American,” Smitherman said. “That’s what those stats are saying.”
The key driver of the increases, according to police, is gang-related activity, particularly activity involving the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade.
“If our theory is correct, most of these homicides involve narcotic sales, respect and retaliation,” Bailey said.
Chief Blackwell explained the increase in homicides appears to be particularly related to disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories.
“Criminal territories have been disrupted, and we’ve seen an increase in turf wars and neighborhood situations between young people,” he said. “Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature.”
Councilman Kevin Flynn asked what council could do to help remedy the situation.
“We are significantly short of police officers, so we desperately need a recruit class,” Blackwell responded. “We need to improve our technology platform here in the police department.”
Blackwell cautioned that there’s not a direct correlation between more police officers and less homicides, but he said another recruit class could help the city meet basic needs.
Flynn claimed council is very willing to meet those needs, given the importance of public safety to the city’s prosperity.
“If we’re not safe and we don’t have the perception that we’re a safe city, none of the rest of the great things we do as a city are going to help,” he said.
How council meets those needs while dealing with fiscal concerns remains to be seen, considering Mayor John Cranley and a majority of council members ran on the promise of structurally balancing the city’s operating budget for the first time in more than a decade.
City officials have vowed to avoid raising taxes and cutting basic services, which makes the task of balancing the budget all the more difficult. Advancing promises of more spending for the police department further complicates the issue, even if it’s politically advantageous in a city seriously concerned about public safety.
Cincinnati Police will hold several town hall meetings in the next week to hear concerns from citizens. The meetings will span across all local districts:
• District 2: Jan. 7, Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way.
• District 3: Jan. 8, Elder HS Schaeper Center, 3900 Vincent.
• District 1 and Central Business District: Jan. 9, River of Life Church, 2000 Central Parkway.
• District 5: Jan. 13, Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave..
• District 4: Jan. 14, Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.
Correction: The local homicide rate for 2013 was 25 per 100,000 residents, contrary to the 15.5 per 100,000 rate cited by police officials to City Council.