Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell looking into splitting up west side district

Crime, response times lead to internal review

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati police leaders are looking into splitting up the city’s busiest police district into two.

The reason: the west side’s District 3 leads the city’s five districts in serious crime, calls for service and lengthy response times. And Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says the district doesn’t have enough people to handle to the work.

“It is just too much work for one captain, for one district to handle,” Blackwell told WCPO.

He’s moving ahead with examining the possibility of dividing the district, using a team of police officials, according to an internal memo obtained by WCPO. The team will review the feasibility, including whether the computer system cops use on the street can be formatted to include a sixth city district, he said.

The chief does not want to divide any of the 14 neighborhoods District 3 currently serves. The district serves East Price Hill, West Price Hill, Lower Price Hill, East Westwood, English Woods, Millvale and Moosewood, North Fairmount, South Fairmount, Riverside, Saylor Park, Sedamsville, South Cumminsville, Roll Hill and Westwood.

READ the internal memo in its entirety at the bottom of this story

Police in District 3 serve nearly 90,000 city residents, and the zone consistently leads the city in calls for service, serious crime and reported crime, according to the memo. During the chief’s town hall series earlier this year, west side residents complained of long response times and a lack of enough personnel to handle the amount of calls.

District 3 averages a 20-minute response time to priority calls, compared to a little more than 10 in District 1; 14 minutes in District 2 and 5, and nearly 15 in District 4, according to 2013 data the police department presented to City Council in December. Priority calls are runs that require an officer’s immediate assistance.

District 3 received 68,659 calls for service in 2013, more than any of the city’s five districts. The calls amount to nearly 27 percent of all calls. There was a 3 percent decrease in serious crime – which includes violent and property crimes – in 2013 compared to 2012. There was a 13 percent decrease in theft, 6 percent increase in burglaries and a 23 percent reduction in automotive theft.

The Cincinnati Emergency Communications Center, a city department operated out of the city manager’s office, confirmed it is possible to format the computer system.

And the time is right.

The computer system, known officially as the Computer Aided Dispatch or CAD, is scheduled for an upgrade next year anyway.

“This advantage will also enable us to analyze and recommend other changes citywide,” the memo read.

Another factor is the growing Latino and African populations in the west side, which the chief said are highly prone to be victimized.

“This population deserves a focused and directed police strategy to address crime prevention and explore progressive policing policies,” read the internal memo, authored by Lt. Lisa Davis, community liaison commander.

Authorities also cite a gang culture taking hold, with “14 group member-involved (GMI) gangs, nine of which are located in the neighborhoods of East and West Price Hill,” read the memo.

Investigators say they targeted 29 suspects linked to gangs responsible for six shootings in East Price Hill last January. The gangs were identified as CPG, Skepp Bandz, Get The Gwap Gang  and Cincinnati White Boys.

Command staff with CPD say that despite the lack of well-organized, large gangs, the smaller, more nimble gangs in Cincinnati are behind a vast majority of the violent crime.

The intelligence unit, working in with the newly formed gang enforcement squad and officers at the district level, are working to gather more information on gangs, their members and their area of operations and activities.

The team analyzing the move will consist of former District 3 commander Russ Neville, currently overseeing the special services section; Elle Topham, the department’s finance director; Lt. Maris Herold, a District 4 supervisor who is next in line to be promoted to captain; Lt. Deborah Bauer and Blake Christianson of the Crime Analysis and Problem Solving squad; current District 3 commander Capt. Dan Gerard, and Jim Olthaus, supervisor of the Information Technology section.



READ MORE: Crime and justice stories from Kareem Elgazzar
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