Working Group Presents Recommendations for Reducing Violent Crime

Strategies include initiatives for at-risk parents and youth

City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson
City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson

A group working to craft recommendations for a long-term strategy for reducing violent crime in the city presented its findings to City Council's Human Services, Youth and Arts Committee on Monday. 

The Violence Prevention Working Group, initiated by City Council, was formed in November 2014 when council removed $400,000 from the Human Services Fund dedicated to violence-prevention work. Creating a group dedicated to finding a holistic approach to breaking the cycle of violent crime, along with additional prevention efforts, was part of that change-up.

The Violence Prevention Working Group was spearheaded by Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, who co-chaired the initiative with Vice Mayor David Mann. Simpson says the city's funding stream dedicated to targeting violent crime had not been following a long-term, comprehensive strategy.  

"The magic of the model as well is that it's not a law enforcement only model, although law enforcement is a part of it and essential to it," Simpson said on Monday. "It's also a health-department focused model and a community-based model."

Four sessions brought together 36 participants from city organizations and community nonprofitssuch as Cincinnati Public Schools, United Way and the Greater Cincinnati Foundationin neighborhoods that have experienced high rates of violent crime. They were held from October of last year to March of this year — two in South Avondale and one each in the West End and Westwood. 

The city has seen a recent increase in violent crime, particularly homicides, which are up 13 percent this year, according to statistics from the Cincinnati Police Department. 

Working group members from the Cincinnati Health Department, the Cincinnati Police Department and local nonprofit the GLAD House recommended that the city provide $500,000 toward violence prevention to be matched with $250,000 in private funding, appoint a representative from CPD to the Human Services Advisory Council and support the appointment of one organization to serve as the backbone of the plan.

The plan's main strategies focus on efforts to engage the entire community and direct services toward early intervention initiatives for at-risk children and their parents. 

Camille Jones, the assistant health commissioner at the Cincinnati Department of Health, presented research that tied youth delinquency behavior to 20 environmental factors. The strongest indicators were child maltreatment, harsh parenting, parental drug use and adolescent substance abuse. 

Jones discussed the concept of looking at violent crime as a public health problem, treating it as if it were a contagious disease that could be passed from person to person, especially when someone is repeatedly exposed to it, such as a child. 

Georgine Gerry, executive director of the RAND House, which provides mental health services to children, agreed there needs to be a community-wide intervention for the city's kids. 

"The focus needs to be on the adults who help shape those youth: the parents, the families and the community members," Getty said. 

Cincinnati Police Department District 4 Captain Maris Herold discussed the department's Place-Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories, or PIVOT, initiative that it launched in February 

The PIVOT approach focuses on tackling the city's long-standing crime "hot spots" and focuses on carefully monitoring the locations and known offenders' networks through data, rather than increasing police in those particular locations. 

Herold said the hot spots are typically very small areas often amounting to a single address. They account for just 1.4 percent of Cincinnati's area, and increases in law enforcement to those areas actually did more to strain police-community relations with law abiding residents than prevent crime in the long run.

"Ninety-nine percent, probably even higher, of people in a hot spot are just trying to get by and do the right thing,"  Herold says. 

Councilman Wendell Young, who spoke after the group had concluded its presentation, said it is time for the entire community to step up. 

"I see this as the problem I always saw it as, a citywide problem," he said.  

Simpson says the plan will eventually be presented to the full Council.

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