Cincinnati police broaden review of district boundaries

Unified Uptown district under consideration

CINCINNATI – The boundaries of all the city's police districts are under review as officials look to evenly distribute the workload of the police force.

As part of the review, police leaders are considering the possibility of a unified district for the neighborhoods known as Uptown, which includes the University of Cincinnati.

As first reported by WCPO,  police leaders are looking into splitting up the city’s busiest police district, the west side's District 3, into two. That review has now broadened to take in all of the city's police districts.

The goal of the updated evaluation is to roughly distribute the police call workload evenly among all the districts, said Assistant Chief James Whalen.

As it stands now, District 3 accounts for close to 30 percent of the police calls, he said. District 3 leads the city’s districts in serious crime, calls for service and lengthy response times. And Chief Jeffrey Blackwell has said the district doesn’t have enough people to handle to the work.

“What may happen in District 3 is that our officers and district leaders may miss details and everyone gets a little war weary,” Whalen said. “The business need of smoothing it out a little bit is certainly there.”   

Driven by District 3’s workload, the updated evaluation is examining the boundaries among districts 1, 3 and 5, Whalen told WCPO this week. District 3’s southeastern border bumps up against District 1, which primarily serves the area north of downtown, and District 3’s northeastern boundary borders District 5, which serves the north-central portion of the city, from Clifton Heights north to College Hill.

The broadened review will also evaluate a long-standing request by residents and businesses of Uptown, which includes the neighborhoods of Avondale, Clifton, Clifton Heights, Corryville and Mount Auburn.

Spanning the last five years, leaders in the Uptown area, and with the Uptown Consortium, have been calling for a unified police district, similar to the Central Business District, which oversees policing downtown. Uptown Consortium CEO Beth Robinson told WCPO that Uptown leaders have asked police to at least consider the idea of a unified police district.

Avondale, Corryville and Mount Auburn are within what is currently District 4, while Clifton and Clifton Heights are in District 5. The University of Cincinnati is technically split between the two districts. UC's West campus, the main campus, is in District 5, while its East campus, the medical campus, is in District 4.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with Cincinnati police,” said Robinson, CEO of the advocacy group that includes the neighborhoods' largest employers. “I know it’s difficult to have to draw boundaries and neighborhood boundaries, but the Uptown area is special.

“What I mean is it’s just not your typical neighborhood. Tourists from out of town and around the region come here to visit the zoo, students come here from around the world and country to be educated and a lot of people come to the many hospitals seeking health care.”

If an independent police district is not achievable, Uptown leaders would be open to being within one district, whether it is District 4 or 5, she said.

“It’s just got to make better sense to have one district,” Robinson said.

Also driving the district review is a scheduled upgrade of the computer-aided dispatch system police use to dispatch officers. 

In 2012, under former Police Chief James Craig – the first police chief hired from out of town in Cincinnati history – commanders reviewed the issue of redistricting, but reprogramming the dispatch system was too expensive, Whalen said.

“The last time we looked at that would’ve required a hard-wiring of the computer system, paying Motorola (the company providing the computer system) hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Whalen said.

This time around, though, the computer system is scheduled for an upgrade next year.

“This advantage will also enable us to analyze and recommend other changes citywide,” an internal memo obtained by WCPO reads.

Blackwell said he does not want to divide any of the city’s 52 neighborhoods.

READ: Crime and justice stories from Kareem Elgazzar
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