CINCINNATI – Residents of the city’s west side appealed for quicker response times and harsher enforcement of problem properties at the first of five town hall forums with police department brass.
During the nearly two-hour forum Wednesday night, Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, the department’s three assistant chiefs and captains, underwent tough questioning largely related to why it can take hours, in some cases, for a police officer to show up, residents claimed. Others criticized police for not doing more to shutter nuisance properties, and a few praised police for their work.
Blackwell and Capt. Daniel Gerard, who assumed command of District 3 last Friday, recognized the response-time problem. 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 minutes 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.
Colleen Morris, a Price Hill resident for nearly 40 years, said her home was burglarized three times, once when a burglar was still in the house while she was home. It took nearly 45 minutes for officers to arrive, she said.
“You call back and you get, ‘Ma’am, we’re busy,’ well there is someone in my home,” Morris said. “I had to leave my home because of it.
“What am I suppose to do anymore? Do I have to move?”
In response to Morris, Blackwell apologized for not responding in a timely fashion.
"That is not something we’re proud of, we do our best, and certainly the officers in District 3 do,” Blackwell said. “They go from run to run to run, I’m not making an excuse, but we’re going to do a better job of responding to those quality-of-life issues that you speak of, because it’s not OK – that’s why we are here tonight.”
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and the department command staff hosted a District 3 town hall forum Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, at Elder High School. Kareem Elgazzar | WCPO
For non-priority calls, District 3 averages nearly a 40-minute response time. Throughout the forum, numerous residents recalled waiting hours for a police officer to arrive.
Gerard, who replaces Capt. Russ Neville, noted after the meeting police will often respond to drug complaints in an unmarked cruiser to investigate.
“Just because you don’t see us, doesn’t necessarily mean we weren’t there,” Gerard said.
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 in the city. There was a 3 percent decrease in serious crime – which include 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.
But it's the crimes of violence – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assaults – that grab headlines, lead evening newscasts and impact the public's perception of District 3. There was a 42 percent increase in homicides and a 2 percent bump in aggravated assaults, police said.
The forums are intended to gather information from citizens so police officials can craft strategic planning efforts this year.
“This is a very caring, connected portion of the city and so we certainly understand some of their concerns,” Blackwell said following the forum. “That is the purpose of having these town hall forums – what we need to do better.”
The meetings continue this month.
- District 1 and Central Business Section: Thursday, Jan. 9, at the River of Life Church, 2000 Central Pkwy.
- District 2: Tuesday, Jan. 21, at Medpace, Inc., 5375 Medpace Way
- District 4: Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the Church of the Resurrection, 1619 California Ave.
- District 5: Monday, Jan. 13 at the Little Flower Church, 5560 Kirby Ave.