CINCINNATI — Top law enforcement officers in Cincinnati called on Hamilton County courts to consider the recent uptick in violent crime when setting bonds, hearings and sentences for violent offenders, as the city has faced a rash of shootings, homicides and gun violence this year.
"The greater threat is flying lead than viruses in the air," Fraternal Order of Police Queen City 69 President Dan Hils said during a Thursday afternoon news briefing, referring to the spike in violent offenses -- including shootings and homicides -- in 2020. "Repeat violent offenders are causing horrific suffering to our neighborhoods."
Police say 149 people have been shot since January, 101 since Ohio's stay-at-home order was put in place.
Hils said violent criminals are exploiting what he called "the criminal justice system's revolving door, exacerbated by the COVID crisis."
The FOP president asked Hamilton County judges to "take into consideration the level of violence on the streets when setting bonds, assigning trial dates and sentencing offenders."
Hils went on to criticize judges from both liberal and conservative political leanings who he said are setting bonds and sentences that result in violent offenders returning to the public too quickly.
"Police officers in Cincinnati have been reaching out to me for some time, asking for us to start to speak out, asking for their union to speak out on this," Hils said. "The people that we are finding and making excellent arrests on are finding their way right back out on the streets."
Hils implied this "revolving door" has contributed to 2020's spike in violence within city limits. He reported 218 arrests made of suspects possessing weapons since Jan. 1 and that officers had seized more than 400 illegal firearms this year.
"The Cincinnati police are at work. ... We need the other side of the justice system to work, as well," Hils said.
CPD Chief Elliot Isaac echoed Hils' concern about the spike in violent crime.
"We continue to see these losses as violent crime continues across our city," Isaac said. "We're not talking about low-level offenses. We're not talking about nonviolent offenders, but individuals who utilize illegal guns and commit violence in our neighborhood."
Last week, Isaac announced the creation of a gun violence task force within his department as well as increased patrols by his officers.
As far as violent crimes, East Westwood Council President Rodney Christian says allowing perpetrators back on the streets doesn't help.
"We are all supposed to be under this same umbrella wanting peace, but everybody under this building has to be on the same page," Christian said.
He says they need to get on the same page soon to curb violence.
“The West Side has really been getting hit -- not only with corona, but with violence, killings," Christian said.
Common Pleas Judge Charles Kubicki told WCPO he is considering every angle and promises to look into the details of the issues raised by police to see if there is a correlation to those inmates released and the recent spike in crime.
At this point, he says judges chose to release those nearing the end of their sentence, and adds that the spike in crime appears to have happened before judges began releasing inmates.
In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said:
I understand and share in the FOP's concern and frustration with violent offenders being released on low bonds. Those in the community who advocate for the release of violent repeat offenders are just plain wrong. Violent repeat offenders will continue to re-offend and wreak havoc in our community.
I am fine with low-level non-violent offenders being released on low bonds. However, I instruct my assistants to ask for high bonds for those defendants charged with a serious crime, who have a prior record and who have weapons or prior weapons charges. This type of defendant needs to be locked up and we have room at the Justice Center to accommodate them.