Over-the-Rhine neighbors set out to stop violence, promote safety together

Residents invited to town hall meeting Saturday

CINCINNATI - After a particularly violent week in Over-the-Rhine, two residents are taking it upon themselves to do something about it.

Ryan Messer said he and James McQueen "represent the dichotomy" of OTR. "I'm the white boy from rural Indiana and James is the black guy from the ‘hood. We look like Mutt and Jeff, but we want the same thing – get the kids straight and make the neighborhood safe."

Messer and McQueen are asking neighbors to attend a town hall meeting Saturday to develop a plan to stop the violence and crime in OTR.

Messer said they were already planning a skating outing for the kids in the neighborhood June 21, but 13 shootings, a homicide and an aggravated robbery in the past week increased their urgency and widened their attention to bigger problems.

"When this happened, we realized this is bigger than the kids. We need to get everybody together to solve this," Messer said.

Messer had his car broken into this week for the third time in six months, but he said this is not about him.

He cited  "apple picking" as an increasing crime in Over-the-Rhine - and many cities. He said he knew of two recent incidents in Washington Park and the Coffee Emporium when people were using their iPhone and iPad and bold thieves ran up and tried to swipe them out of their hands. In one case, the thief punched the victim in the face and stole his phone.

Other times the problem is just kids with nothing else to do, he said. On a recent night, kids with fake guns "were running around and freaking people out," he said.

"Part of it is educating people on how to be safe," Messer said. "All these people want to live in Over-the-Rhine now for the food and the bars and the arts. They think they can live in an urban environment like they used to live in Loveland, but they can't."

On the agenda Saturday is starting a Citizens on Patrol Program with help from Cincinnati Police Sgt. Elena Moton, the neighborhood liaison officer.

Messer said they will get an update on recent crime in OTR from Cincinnati police and discuss crime prevention tips and safety training and how to get more people from the neighborhood involved.

Messer, a new homeowner near Washington Park, said he and McQueen love living in OTR.  "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else and neither would he. That's why we're doing this," he said.

"It's not a white issue. It's not a black issue. It's an Over-the-Rhine issue. We want to pull all of the neighborhood together and try to beat this thing."

The meeting is set for 9-11 a.m. at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1528 Race St. A light breakfast will be provided by the neighborhood Kroger.

Read more about "apple picking" at http://www.today.com/news/apple-picking-thieves-snatch-iphones-1C8441809

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