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After violent weekend, city officials grapple with finding solutions

Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-17 20:31:09-04

CINCINNATI — After a violent weekend in one of the most violent years in Cincinnati's history, city leaders are grappling with what to do to solve the issues causing an uptick in gun violence and homicides.

The weekend's shootings, in which 20 people were shot and at least 5 have died, come at a time of country-wide debate on what role police departments should play in communities. In Cincinnati, city officials vary on their opinions of what the source of the violence is and how to fix it.

Council member Jeff Pastor said he thinks the issue is not tied to policing, but to the need for more resources to help people.

"What do you expect when you disinvest in neighborhoods?" said Pastor. "What do you expect when you house people and they have no way to getting out?"

He said the weekend's rash of gun violence is typical for summer months, where there is typically an uptick in violence. However, he believes this won't change until there's a change in policy -- not policing.

"I’m extraordinarily frustrated, because this is decades of poor policy, poor housing policies, racist, classist housing policy," he said.

Data from the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Police Department show the city is on track to have its deadliest year on record. To date, 66 people have been murdered, 55 of which were killed by gun violence. In total, the year has seen 309 reported shootings.

In a statement made over the weekend, police chief Eliot Isaac said more officers will be deployed to the neighborhoods most affected by the weekend shootings. This is an idea some city leaders support.

On Monday, Isaac reinforced the message and confirmed that neighborhoods that experienced weekend gun violence will have more uniformed officers assigned to them. He also said, despite the incidents all happening around the same time Sunday morning, police don't believe they were linked.

"We're seeing no connection right now through them. We're seeing a number of shootings taking place, a lot of after-hours parties. People would normally this time of the year be at a move or restaurant or a nightclub, now we're seeing a lot of after-hours parties popping up and they’re resulting in significant conflicts – and this weekend resulting in gunfire," said Isaac.

Isaac said although the police haven't announced suspects, they do expect the shooting cases will be solved.

Adding uniformed officers to affected neighborhoods is a decision that other city officials have disagreed on as a solution to the gun violence.

"By having more police officers out there and on patrol, they’ll be talking to more people in the community and getting more tips and more leads," said Betsy Sundermann, city council member. "So yes, I think that will prevent more crime and and solve these crimes."

Pastor doesn't agree, and said he thinks more police in targeted neighborhoods will only make things worse, but he's not in favor of the recent public outcry for fully defunding the police either.

"Adding more cops to the situation does not reduce crime," said Pastor. "Cops by definition respond to crime."

Pastor said he plans to call on city council to commit more funding to neighborhoods, better housing policies and transportation.

WCPO reached out to Mayor John Cranley for comment, but was told he did not have the time for an interview today. Over the weekend, he issued a written statement predominantly pointing to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as the source of the violence.

"During COVID-19 we have seen a huge increase in shootings as large numbers of people with guns are gathering in private homes and public places—like Grant park—when the bars close at 10 pm," the statement reads, in part. "Guns are far too prevalent at these gatherings. Please do not attend gatherings, because you could end up as an innocent victim...The very sad reality is people are getting in trouble when they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Our police are working very hard to bring the shooters to justice and try to suppress this violence. They will put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all and they need our support."

Council member Jan Michele Lemon Kearney also issued a statement over the weekend saying she believed the solutions to the issue were complicated.

"There is no magic cure," her statement read. "Extreme reactions, like doubling the police presence or, conversely, keeping the police out of the communities, are not answers. The problem of community violence requires us to pull together all resources to implement reasoned and reasonable multi-faceted solutions."