At meeting on crime, talk turns to city's youth

Posted at 12:14 AM, Jan 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-26 00:25:52-05

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said there's one thing that keeps him up at night: gun violence.

With 492 shooting victims last year, Cincinnati saw a 27 percent increase in gun violence compared to 2014. Isaac pinpointed a reduction in gun violence as his primary goal moving into 2016, particularly in neighborhoods like Westwood that saw significant year-to-year increases.

How, exactly, the city can go about achieving that goal was the subject of a two-hour town hall meeting Monday night in the Evanston neighborhood, in Cincinnati Police District 2.

A packed house pointed to parents, to mentoring programs and reaching the city's youth before they turned to crime. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson had blunt assessment of the current situation: "The streets are doing a better job at recruiting our kids than we are," she said. "I just think they are, and that's a shame."

IN DEPTH: Short-term task force cut violent crime

Isaac is expected to present his crime-reduction plan to City Council next week. He said he would be using elements of the 90-day crime-reduction plan launched by former chief Jeffrey Blackwell last summer.

Some efforts are already underway.

"We are noticing new things involving systems that we are bringing in and being able to track shell casings from different locations and connect them to violent crime across this city," Isaac said.

A report released last week from the police department and the city's Office of Performance and Analytics showed how two categories of violent crime -- rape and homicide -- have steadily increased since 2011. By contrast, while aggravated assaults were up from 2014, they have steadily decreased over the last 5 years. Robberies have also showed steady decline in that time period.

INTERACTIVE: How violent crime is trending here

Isaac also pointed to gang-related shootings as an issue warranting his department’s attention, even though the percentage of shootings that are gang-related actually decreased from 2014 to 2015.

Mayor John Cranley and other leaders were encouraged by the turnout for the first of five town hall meetings. Cranley said the city is looking at different options for prosecuting violent criminals.

"When we can't find the witnesses to come forward, we need another way to get those killers behind bars, which we can do by getting them on illegal gun charges. Even if it isn't a life-long sentence, we can still get them off the streets, for 10, 15, 20 years," he said.

The rest of the town hall meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • District 3 meeting: 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 1, Westwood Town Hall, 3017 Harrison Ave.
  • District 4 meeting: 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 8, Bond Hill Community Center, 1501 Elizabeth Place
  • District 5 meeting: 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 22, College Hill Community Center, 5545 Belmont Ave.

---'s Pat LaFleur contributed to this report.