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Chief Eliot Isaac talks rising homicide rates with City Council

Chief Eliot Isaac at Law and Public Safety meeting
Posted at 9:10 AM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 21:21:49-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac presented new data on rising homicide rates to Cincinnati City Council on Tuesday morning.

City data shows, as of Tuesday at 8 p.m., more than 300 shootings have occurred in Cincinnati this year, and 66 homicides. Of the 66 homicides, 60% of those cases are closed. In order for a case to be considered closed, the offender must have died or been arrested, prosecution was declined or the suspect is awaiting a grand jury presentation.

Crime in Cincinnati is down overall this year compared to 2020, but the homicide rate is up. All of 2020 saw 74 homicides, while 2021 has seen 66 so far this year. There have been seven homicides so far in September. Three additional deaths are pending a ruling on the cause of death.

Isaac’s team told council Tuesday that 2020 was an unprecedented year due to the pandemic. They said now, police are moving back toward the progress they were making in 2018 and 2019.

His presentation listed nine circumstances investigators believe built up to many of this year’s shootings:

  • Police believe 18 shootings were pre-planned and targeted specific individuals.
  • Data showed 14 shootings as domestic and five as intimate partner violence.
  • 11 of the shootings are listed as retaliation-related.
  • 11 more are related to what police said were running disputes.
  • Nine shootings were sudden disputes.
  • Eight shootings hit unintended victims.
  • Seven were drug-related.
  • Police believe six shootings were self-defense.
  • Five stemmed from robberies.
  • Five others are undetermined.

Isaac acknowledged the list does not account for all the shootings or homicides this year, but he said several incidents cover multiple different categories.

He said it can also be difficult for police to pinpoint one place where the majority of guns used for these shootings and homicides originate.

"We're seeing them come in various ways," said Isaac. "Some are stolen. Some are legally purchased then handed off to individuals who should not have firearms."

He said his team has confiscated more than 1,200 firearms from the streets.

Families of shooting victims said they're frustrated about how the rising rates in gunfire and homicides have affected neighborhoods and communities.

"I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I'm angry for everybody," said Marcella Thompson, whose 8-year-old son, MJ Whitehead, has been in the hospital for more than 100 days after a stray bullet hit him in Westwood.

Brandi Turner died after someone fired a gun near Grant Park in Over the Rhine Sunday. She was 35 years old and a mother of six.

"It's horrible, and I just hope and pray that they find whoever did this to her. She didn't deserve that," said Tammy Turner, Brandi's mother.

Brandi's oldest daughter, 15-year-old Le'Niyah Turner, is now forced to help plan her mother's funeral. However, coming up with the funds to do so is proving difficult. They had to start a fundraiser page online to help.

"It don't feel like she gone in my heart, but, in my head, I know my mama gone. It just don't feel real right now," said Le'Niyah Turner.

Community organizer Bishop Ennis Tait said he’s working on several initiatives to increase dialogue and relationships between Cincinnati police and communities.

"Unless something miraculous happens, we are simply going to hit the same number or higher because of the rate of homicides that we're seeing,” Tait said. “And, again, if you really look at the map of where these homicides are taking place, it really says a lot about the energy in those communities."

At Tuesday's Law and Public Safety, committee members also expected to get an update on staffing levels at the fire department.

Right now there are about 776 sworn-in personnel, but even with the two upcoming recruit classes, they’ll barely reach 800.

The biggest challenge for the department is the number of retiring firefighters over the next two years. There are two recruit classes that will graduate 40 people each, but that will still only net the department about 806 firefighters by 2023, according to the city’s June budget report.