CINCINNATI — 2020 was one of the deadliest years on record in Cincinnati, but local anti-gun violence advocates remain hopeful that 2021 will be a safer year.
Police investigated 92 homicides in 2020, according to the Cincinnati Police Department’s latest report. The number of gun homicides has trended up for the last three years; 2018 saw 51 deadly shootings, followed by 59 in 2019. In 2020, 85 people were shot and killed, making up more than 90% of total homicides that year.
On Aug. 16, 19 people were shot within city limits, killing four people in just 24 hours. Eleven people were killed by gunfire that month, the deadliest on record in five years.
"A lot of communities around the city don’t have this stuff going on," said Mitch Morris with the Cincinnati Works Phoenix Program. "I feel like we all should live in safe places where kids can go to school without being shot for carrying a bookbag, or get hit with a stray bullet.”
It's easy to get lost in the numbers, but for Morris, each statistic is a story.
"Each one of the people you speak about has a family, mother, father, kids," he said.
The breakdown of deadly shootings is trending in the wrong direction, Morris said, as 90% of shooting victims in the city were Black, and 85% were male. Overall, Cincinnati’s West End and Over-The-Rhine neighborhoods saw the most reported shootings, according to police data.
All of these numbers, Morris said, represent the work yet to be done to reverse the trend. With the Phoenix Program, he visits at-risk communities to reach out with alternatives to violence.
"We want to take the opportunity to meet them where they're at and show them something different,” he said. “The way to deal with a situation isn't to grab a gun and start shooting for unnecessary reasons."
One silver lining: gun recoveries by Cincinnati Police were up in every district, plus the number of recovered guns in District Two doubled year over year.
Morris believes creating a safer city is all about changing the mindset of those at highest risk.
"Just because there's a box of guns over there don't mean you have to pick the guns up and use them,” he said. “We have to get into their way of thinking, and where their hearts are at."
Morris is hopeful for continued action at the city level in 2021, and for folks to rally to say enough is enough.
"You have a lot of good people in the city that want to put work in and try to help,” he said. “It's a matter of connecting the bridges to try to get everyone working together."