CINCINNATI -- In some parts of Cincinnati, guns are as accessible to the public as water fountains and bus stops for those who know where to look.
According to police, "community guns" -- firearms stashed in inconspicuous locations around the city and usable by anyone who finds them -- are a persistent problem in some of the neighborhoods hardest-hit by gun violence.
The Cincinnati Police Department announced Thursday its officers had confiscated 11 such guns from an open apartment garage in Avondale, where community activists and law enforcement are both working to reduce rates of gun violence that once made it the most dangerous place in the city.
.@CincyPD District 4 Violent Crimes Squad recovered these 11 “Community” guns, (4 stolen), along with drugs and multiple rounds of ammo in open area of garage in multi-unit apartment building. #ZeroToleranceForGunViolence #KeepingCincySafe pic.twitter.com/IZfH2EYCqW
— Captain Martin Mack (@CincyPD_CptMack) April 5, 2018
"It's going to keep another young man from getting shot and killed out on the street, another parent from losing a loved one to gun violence," longtime resident Mitch Morris said. "It makes our chances a lot better for keeping us from going to the penitentiary or going to the graveyard."
Morris, who dedicated his career at Cincinnati Works to rehabilitating former offenders, has lived in Avondale for 60 years and witnessed the terrible cost of gun violence firsthand -- "senseless killings" in which women and children became collateral damage.
"We don't have to die like that," he said.
Crime is still a problem in the area, but rising community awareness and the implementation of law enforcement technology such as ShotSpotter are helping, he added.
ShotSpotter, which uses audio to pinpoint the locations of gunshots even when no one reports a shooting, has been active throughout Avondale since August 2017. Both Morris and police credit it with helping to reduce violence in the neighborhood -- at one point even contributing to a 25-day span without any gun violence at all.
At the time, neither Morris nor Lt. Paul Neudigate could recall any similar shooting-free time period in their lifetimes. It didn't last, but both hope it will soon become the new norm.
"It's going to become a no-fly zone for gunfire activity," Neudigate said.