As part of larger crime reduction effort, Cincinnati police visibility overtime nets 500 arrests

Blackwell: Arrest data only one way to measure

CINCINNATI – An increase in arrests doesn’t necessarily please Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell as the results of the first two months of police visibility overtime come to light.

Admittedly, though, it is one of the only ways to quantify and measure the effectiveness of additional spending, Blackwell told WCPO late Tuesday evening.

Police visibility overtime (PVO) was part of plan earlier this year to combat violent crime and focus police resources on hotspots. The plan included boosting the ranks with a lateral transfer class and a fresh, 60-member police academy recruit class scheduled for later this year.

"To say that, while we have miles to go, out strategy is starting to work," said Mayor John Cranley at a Wednesday morning press conference at District 4 headquarters in Avondale. "The top priority is to make our city safer."

The $1.2 million visibility effort, planned over the current and next fiscal year, allowed for commanders in each of the city’s five districts to spend the resources as they saw fit depending on each district’s needs. With the help of patrol administration commander Capt. Gary Lee, former District 1 commander, a 34-page report outlining the specifics of PVO deployment was made public Wednesday afternoon. Read the full report at the bottom of this story.

Officials have said police departments that work at building relationships with the community are better equipped to solve homicides and drive down violent crime. Not surprisingly, departments that use best practices for investigating violent crime, such as allocating overtime pay to allow officers to work around the clock, have the most success with closing cases and deterring crime.

"This was not a push-down tactic directed by myself or the assistant chiefs," Blackwell said. "We gave the district commanders the full latitude to address crime and disorder in their districts the way they felt it needed to be done."

WCPO obtained an advance copy of the analysis early Wednesday morning.

Early results show:

• Citywide, more than 500 additional felony and misdemeanor arrests have been made between March 8 and May 8, including the seizure of eight guns on city streets, according to a police analysis obtained by WCPO.

District 1: Violent crime reduced from 10 incidents in the 30 days preceding the additional funding to three incidents in the first 30 days of increased PVO. From April 6 to May 3, one violent crime was reported in the northeast and southeast areas of Over-the-Rhine – areas police identified that needed extra presence.

Spanning about two months beginning March 3 through April 26, District 1 officers seized 88 grams of marijuana, 8.5 grams of cocaine, nearly 12.5 grams of crack cocaine and 2 grams of heroin all while deploying more than 700 hours of foot patrols.

District 2: Serious crime (aggravated assault, rape, homicide, robbery, arson, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft) was reduced in four of the five areas receiving additional patrols by at least 23 percent. Efforts in District 2 included “covert officers for surveillance and drug investigations and uniform officers assigned to high-visibility foot, bicycle and Segway patrols between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight,” according to the police analysis.

District 3: A 21 percent decrease in violent crime, and a 6 percent decrease in serious crime. Police say PVO resulted in a 9 percent year-to-date reduction in calls for service compared to the previous 10-year average, equivalent to 700 fewer calls. During the police department’s town hall series, west side residents largely complained of long response times. Increased efforts were largely focused in areas along Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill, Harrison Avenue in Westwood and West Liberty Street in West Price Hill.

District 3 commander Capt. Daniel Gerard said policing  20 square miles and 85,000 people in the district is a challenge, yet investigators have managed to identify 186 people largely responsible for violent crime in the district.

"If I can reduce 85,000 people down to 186 primary offenders that I need to really do some targeted enforcement on, and look very hard at their social relationships, and the places where they commit their crimes, it's much more manageable to get some quick wins," Gerard said.

District 4: A 16 percent reduction in homicides, robberies, felonious assaults, and burglaries compared with the same time period in 2013. District commander Capt. Michael Neville focused PVO resources on blight abatement enforcement in Avondale and Walnut Hills, which included walking patrols in and around problem properties.

"We have apartment complexes, that at one point bad people were residing in them, and because of some of our efforts, they have moved out," Neville said. " ... We are here for you, and we are here because of you and we'll continue to be with our without overtime."

District 5: Areas receiving additional patrols resulted in 11 percent fewer calls for service and a 35 percent reduction in robberies. 

District commander Capt. Paul Neudigate focused resources on combating robberies, a high-profile issue in the areas surrounding the University of Cincinnati. Additional plain clothed and uniformed patrols were deployed in the Clifton, University Heights and Fairview Heights neighborhoods. The end result of the first 60 days was a 35 percent reduction compared to the previous 110-day period, according to the police analysis.

Cranley, Blackwell and other police officials outlined PVO efforts at a press conference Wednesday morning at District 4 headquarters on Reading Road.

WCPO will update this story as more information becomes available.

READ: Crime and justice stories from Kareem Elgazzar
FOLLOW on Twitter: @ElgazzarBLVD

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