CINCINNATI – From reducing the city's homicides to stretching the department’s staffing and improving the quality of service, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other department leaders on Monday outlined strategies to combat homicide and violent crime.
Seventy-five people were slain in Cincinnati in 2013 - a 42 percent jump from 2012, giving it the distinction of having the highest rate of homicide when compared to similar sized cities in the region. Cincinnati's rate of 25 slayings per 100,000 residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.
Police officials reiterated again on Monday that the downturn in 2012 was a statistical anomaly. Even so, Blackwell said citizens can expect a reduction in violent crime and homicides in 2014 in part because he promoted two captains to critical command positions and he will start a wide variety of initiatives to engage teens.
Homicide is not just a city problem. At a minimum, each homicide costs Hamilton County taxpayers $3,000 for body removal, autopsy, and toxicology tests, said Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco. So last year, taxpayers picked up a minimum of $225,000 just for the coroner's work.
A WCPO analysis of 2013 homicides found several trends:
- Deadliest month: October, with nine homicides reported. April, May, June and July each had eight.
- Deadliest time of day: Evenings. Most homicide victims (41.3 percent) were killed between 6:01 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. Another 18 homicides (24 percent) were reported between midnight and 6:01 a.m.
- Deadliest neighborhood: Westwood, where seven homicides were reported last year. Over-The-Rhine had six, and Winton Hills and North Fairmount each recorded five.
- Weapon of choice: Handgun. Sixty-one victims (81.3 percent) where shot to death.
- The victims: More than half (57.3 percent) were black men under the age of 35; about 37.3 percent were under the age of 25.
Source: WCPO analysis of Cincinnati Police Department data.
CLICK ON THE POINTS IN THE INTERACTIVE MAP BELOW FOR A DETAILED LOOK ON EACH HOMICIDE.
*The listed age of each suspect is the suspect's age at the time of the arrest.
During a nearly two-hour public session at the Cincinnati City Countil meeting Monday, Blackwell at times faced tough questioning, including how police can get tougher on crime, or as Councilmember Christopher Smitherman suggested, adopting a “zero-tolerance” policy.
Many in the police department, though, believe zero-tolerance policing is an archaic tactic that does more harm than good.
“We want to be aggressive, but we also want to be right,” Blackwell told members of the law and public safety committee. “We don’t want to be aggressive for the sake of aggression and violate people’s constitutional rights, while we try to get it right. We’re not going to go back to those days where we get somewhat reckless in our approach.
“We’re going to be targeted and focused and know who we’re going after,” he said.
The arrest-first policy associated with zero tolerance has filled the courts with first-time, minor offenders, police officials said. Even when cases are dismissed, people can be shadowed for years by error-ridden criminal records, discouraging them from helping police in the future.
“That (zero-tolerance policing) went out with head-cracking,” said Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey following the committee meeting, who oversees the investigations bureau.
Of the city's 75 homicide victims, 58 were black men. Of the 41 closed cases, 34 black men were arrested in connection with a homicide.
While Smitherman and Councilmember Charlie Winburn recognized the black-on-black violence trend Monday, both wanted to hear solutions from Blackwell. Most communities in the country are facing pervasive black-on-black crime, Blackwell told the committee.
“The level of black-on-black crime is unacceptable, and I talked about it when I came here as one of my main initiatives to reduce,” Blackwell said. “It will be reduced.”
Filling two critical command positions will also help drive down violence, Blackwell promised. Capt. Bridget Bardua, who served as homicide unit commander for the past 20 months, was promoted to oversee narcotics and the department's vice unit. Capt. Michael John will step in as District 1 commander.
Bardua brings an expertise to the position after managing the homicide unit that ended 2013 with a 53 percent closure rate. John will supervise a district that saw 11 homicides in 2013.
Coming Wednesday: Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell outlines solutions to drive down homicides.
For more stories by Kareem Elgazzar, visit www.wcpo.com/elgazzar. Follow him on Twitter at @ElgazzarBLVD