CINCINNATI — In less than one week, seven local teenagers have been shot, and those who work with homicide victims say enough is enough when it comes to the recent string of violence involving teens.
"Being that this is the first part of the year, I am devastated to think about if we don't do something to kind of change the trajectory that we're on, this is potentially really, really bad,” said Karen Rumsey, the Cincinnati Police Department’s victim advocate.
While some have worked remotely since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Rumsey never left Cincinnati’s streets. She is a social worker paid by the department to run a small team, including interns from the University of Cincinnati and other local schools.
Rumsey, who has worked with CPD since 2014, safely meets with people, attends vigils, and comforts loved ones at homicide scenes. Beyond consoling the families of victims, she encourages witnesses of violent crimes to come forward.
Hers is never an easy role, but it's taken an even more troubling turn this week.
“It’s so disheartening. These are our babies that have a whole future ahead of them, and we have got to figure out what’s going on and some ways to get this stopped," she said. "It’s unthinkable what’s happening here in our own city.”
Rumsey explained it's hard to pinpoint blame on just one factor, even as the pandemic has brought more children home for schooling and halted some after-class and outreach programs.
"I don't even know that we can say that it's initiated by pandemic,” she said. “Pretty much what I see is just ... kids are lacking stuff. People are missing some crucial points in their life such as home, being empowered, being encouraged.”
And Rumsey, whose team passed out gun locks last summer, said there's also no simple solution.
"What we were hearing from the community is, there are so many guns accessible on the streets that kids aren't really getting their parents’ guns -- they can get them anywhere,” she said.
Rumsey encouraged families of those who lost a loved one to gun violence to keep pushing, while trying to keep other young people from meeting the same fate.
"The pain and the grief hasn't ended for folks, and with these homicides, we can't leave people alone,” she said. “We have to be present for these families."
No one should fear reaching out for help, Rumsey said.
"Let's intervene and find out that it's nothing, rather than to do nothing,” she said.
Anyone who has experienced loss due to violent crime is encouraged to reach out to CPD victim advocates by visiting their website or calling (513) 352-3542.