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Increase in Walnut Hills shootings has neighbor worried

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Posted at 4:42 PM, Sep 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 21:20:32-04

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati police placed Walnut Hills High School on lockdown for hours Tuesday after reports of shots fired near the school.

The incident happened about a mile and a half from where Cierra Allen, 30, and a mother of two, was killed in Walnut Hills last weekend. Police determined in a preliminary report that the shooting was in self-defense, but the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office said it is still reviewing the case.

"It sort of changed, I guess, the feeling of the block," said Ezekiel King Phillips, who lives in Walnut Hills. "There's not as many people around anymore. It's gotten quieter."

Phillips said he and other neighbors like where they live, describing people as friendly and generally feeling safe.

That is until this summer, when there have been two shootings on the block of St. James Avenue, where Phillips has lived since 2019.

"I have the sense that like at least some of my older neighbors, they do really feel like it's weighing heavily on them," Phillips said. "Some of my younger neighbors, you have to keep going."

Another neighbor, Jacob Carson, said he had no idea there even was a shooting on Saturday, the day Allen was killed.

"It'll definitely make me maybe a little concerned," he said.

Cincinnati city data shows shooting incidents in Walnut Hills have been going up since 2019.

That also now includes the call police received of shots fired about two miles away from St. James Avenue on Montgomery Road near Walnut Hills.

"I think they're more targeted," said Andria Carter, community engagement specialist for the Community Police Partnering Center of the shootings.

Carter helps residents with safety issues in their neighborhoods, which included cleaning up a Walnut Hills park last year.

"I think the big reason why they occur is that we're not teaching our kids about conflict resolution," Carter said of the rash of shootings. "You need to resolve your issues a different way and not pick up a gun, because guns kill people."

Phillips said he is starting to see more pamphlets distributed about gun violence.

"It would be nice to see investment in the community," Phillips said. "Not just sort of revitalizing buildings and bringing in shops and stuff, but actually like putting money into making sure that people in the community feel like they have control over their space and over their homes."