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Some neighbors believe Ashland Park is instrumental in keeping Walnut Hills safe

Posted at 5:17 AM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 14:36:38-05

WCPO partnered with The Cincinnati Herald to explore gun violence in Cincinnati and what is being done to solve the problem.

CINCINNATI — Community specialists believe a Walnut Hills park is imperative in the fight to make the neighborhood safer.

Neighbors who live near Ashland Park say they hear shootings on a regular basis. In the neighborhood of Walnut Hills, there have been 4,716 police calls for service in the last six months, according to Cincinnati police data. Of those calls, 155 were for Shot Spotter activity.

Tiffany Brown, a community specialist from the Urban League, said keeping the park safe for everyone is instrumental to the safety of the neighborhood.

“I believe it can be done. I've seen it at Reading Road,” Brown said.

A 2015 shooting near the Shell gas station on Reading Road in Mount Auburn put passersby and passengers on a Metro bus in danger. After that shooting, Brown worked with neighbors to take back the block.

“We like for the community to come up with the response that best fits the issue,” Brown said.

The community mastered what stakeholder Carol Gibbs calls a “mother move.” Gibbs, the president of the Mount Auburn Community Development Association, said neighbors took it upon themselves to repeatedly clean up the area.

“To pull everyone together to keep the neighborhood clean says, 'I belong here,’” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that sent a message to people who had ill intentions in the neighborhood: “That we're paying attention,” she said.

Now, Brown is working with people in Walnut Hills near Ashland Park. A vacant home across from the park has been a magnet for people who drive in, park their cars and block the street.

Resident Robyn Haysbert said people congregate in the street near the park, and that is when guns sometimes come out.

“I don't feel safe walking in this area at all,” Haysbert said.

Neighbor Teaon Morris said the park offers greenspace for people who have a right to gather there. He said he’s not happy about the new residents in rehabbed condos and their efforts to manage the crowds.

“The same people that have been here 30 or 40 years, you can't just choose to move out … you have to adapt. Anywhere you move … you have to adapt to what's going on,” Morris said.

Morris said guns weren’t an issue at the park, but one homeowner’s security camera captured a shooting during the day near the park. Footage showed a man running away with a gun.

Resident Jason Terwilliger said he was on a Zoom call regarding the park and safety issues when the group could hear gunshots outside.

“You started seeing people on the call, ‘Oh what was that?’ It brought the issue home … in real time,” Terwilliger said.

So they set goals in the name of making the park accessible for everyone.

“It is our job to say these are the rules of the park… still gather and use if for how the park was intended,” Brown said.

But not for drinking, parties and guns, which is why some residents have stayed away.

“We just want to bring our families back to the park and be able to enjoy the park the way it should be enjoyed,” Haysbert said.

Watch WCPO’s special “From Gun Violence to Solutions” tonight at 7 p.m.