CINCINNATI -- In the short time Jeffrey Blackwell has been Cincinnati police chief has noticed a "no-snitch mentality" among some members of the community. That's something he hopes to change during his tenure as the city's top cop.
"We need to hold ourselves accountable. There's been such a disconnect in the black community between law enforcement and the community that often times people will not report crime that they witness," said Blackwell. "My saying against the no-snitch mentality is, 'you bet I told,' because we need to get people in areas throughout Cincinnati to stand up and stop being afraid to talk about what's going on"
The city's new chief says Cincinnati is different from Columbus, in that, people want to know more about who is leading the police department and what their plans are for the department.
WCPO reporter Kareem Elgazzar's moderated a web chat with the new chief Wednesday. More than 250 people logged on to get their questions answered.
Blackwell told followers of the chat the city is in a crisis when it comes to black youth and guns. Right now, we're in the midst of a spike in violent crime and the Cincinnati Police Department's mission is to stop it, he said.
"Gang violence in Cincinnati is an issue and it's going to be addressed harshly," Blackwell said.
He is focusing his efforts on building better relationships with local children. Blackwell believes the only way to do that is by getting them to trust him and the other members of the department. He wants the children to view members of CPD as their friend.
"The kids in the neighborhoods that I'm looking at in the West End, they have become so desensitized to violence that it's become a normal course of the way they live, they way they grow up, the way they conduct themselves. To me, it's unacceptable," he said.
Blackwell say he can relate to their experiences on a personal level. He grew up in the inner city of Columbus and says "having hope" is key to overcoming many of the situations they've faced and will continue to face.
"They don't see hope. They can't get past the poverty their experiencing and the hopelessness of the current environment...So they engage in behaviors that are surely going to get them killed or put in prison," he said.
The way Cincinnati police will attempt to engage young people is a key topic of Wednesday's web chat. One poster asked, "What plans do you have to help the teenagers to get out of the streets and help them turn their lives around?"
One plan Blackwell has is to institute a midnight youth basketball league.
"We want to get some of these players that are on the streets out here that are certainly going to get them caught up in a prison cell or a coffin. We want to get some of these kids into the gym late at night," he said.
Another is to get more feet on the streets. He wants more people walking their beats rather than patrolling in their cruisers. Blackwell said he plans to walk beats himself along with other CPD employees.
Blackwell thinks targeting certain areas will help cut down on crime. The number one hot zone for the department is District 3. The homicide and crime numbers are up significantly in that area from last year.
An obstacle in the way of achieving that goal is finding enough man power after recent budget cuts.
Regardless of the challenges, Blackwell said he is confident he can work it out.
While an emphasis has been placed on cutting down violent crime, Blackwell said he wants the people of Cincinnati to know his department is working to cut down the overall number of crimes committed. That includes drug-related crime.
Black said it's important not to Overall, he stressed his department cannot "brush off" certain crimes because because "everyone of the victims and suspects has a family and is a citizen of the city of Cincinnati."
As the chief said, the only way to incite change is to care.
"I'm challenging people of Cincinnati to stand up and make their voices heard in this violence spike," Blackwell said.
9 On Your Side web editor Casey Weldon contributed to this report.
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