CINCINNATI — For nine months, all Geraldine Davis has thought about is the scene in Avondale where an unknown suspect shot and killed her son, Larry, in March.
"There's days I can't breathe," Davis said during Tuesday's City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting.
Davis is a member of one of several families that have lost a loved one to the recent spike in homicides in Cincinnati that has progressed alongside the coronavirus pandemic. Those families gathered at City Hall Tuesday to urge people to stand up, speak out and break what police say is a "culture of silence" around unsolved cases.
It's also known as the "no snitch mentality," and the Cincinnati Police Department has instituted a program intended to address witness' concerns about coming forward with information: the Cincinnati Citizens Respect Our Witnesses program, or CCROW.
"The CCROW witness support program provides a variety of services including court-related services, social services and referrals to counseling services designed to meet the needs of witnesses and their loved ones," according to the city's website.
Tequila Smith also spoke Tuesday. She and her family are still waiting for answers after her brother, Basil Blackman, was killed in Northside in June.
"I never thought that’d happen to him here," Smith said. "If it was your family member, what would you want someone to do? You’d want someone to speak up."
Karen Rumsey runs CCROW for the city and said it can be difficult to get witnesses to come forward out of fear of retaliation.
"There are people that live in these communities that just have this fear of coming forward, and it’s real," she said. "Even the thought of what could happen is so real. Our goal is to make sure that wherever you came in at, you’re better when you leave."
CCROW is not a witness protection program, in which witness' identities are changed. Rather, it intends to keep witnesses safe by providing temporary housing or installing panic alarms in their homes, Rumsey said.
"I know I can’t change what happened, but I just want closure," Smith said.
For more information on the CCROW program, visit the city's website here.