When violent crime spikes during a pandemic, how can communities respond?

South Cumminsville shooting.jpg
Posted at 4:07 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 17:55:06-04

CINCINNATI — The coronavirus might have slowed down most parts of daily life as we know it, but it hasn't slowed down violent crime in Cincinnati.

According to Cincinnati Police Department Assistant Chief Paul Neudigate, Wednesday's fatal shooting in South Cumminsville was just the latest in what he called "the worst 28 days of gun violence that we've seen in the last four years."

Wednesday's shooting followed two deadly weekends that saw three double-homicides and the killing of Jeffrey Duke II in his car on Saturday, despite a stay-at-home order in effect for the state of Ohio. In the last four weeks, Cincinnati police data shows nine reported homicides, 13 rapes, 77 aggravated assaults and 76 robberies.

This bucks downward trends in violent crime seen in other cities across the country.

Mitchell Morris leads the Phoenix Program with Cincinnati Works, which engages individuals at risk of resorting to criminal activity. He said the city needs to be proactive in preventing such crimes, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has tensions escalating.

"Let's hit the streets. We have to. We cannot sit back and let this happen because some of our babies need to be educated to the fact about how serious this disease is," Morris told WCPO. "A lot of youth don't really take this thing that seriously."

Much of Morris' work used to involve face-to-face interaction with young people, but with the stay-at-home order in place, that's created a barrier to his work.

"Somebody got to get out here and educate them," he said. "Who better than us? So that's what we choose to do, and we are going to get out here. Everybody is coming together."

Morris said he and his team plan to partner with other outreach groups, mask and glove up and start roaming neighborhoods in small, socially-distanced groups starting Friday.