Cincinnati mayor introduces anti-crime initiative

AMANDA LEE MYERS Associated Press Published:

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Cincinnati will ramp up overtime for its Police Department, resurrect a gang unit and put 80 new officers on the street in the next 1½ years under an initiative aimed at tackling a recent rash of homicides and violent crimes in Ohio's third largest city, authorities announced Monday.

So far this year, the city of nearly 300,000 has had 11 homicides, nearly double the six that occurred during the same period last year and up from five during that period in 2012 and four in 2011.

"It's unacceptable," Mayor John Cranley said at a news conference announcing the initiative. "(But) the message to the people is that help is on the way."

Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said he was able to find $1 million in savings in the department's budget to pay for 20 new hires and overtime through June 30.

After that, Cranley said, he and the City Council will need to make cuts in the budget to prioritize public safety, one of Cranley's promises ahead of his recent election.

He declined to specify what will be on the chopping block but said that "we're going to have to find savings."

Cranley and other city officials at the news conference acknowledged that most of the new efforts will take time, possibly years, to have an effect but said they will amount to long-term solutions.

Blackwell said 20 new hires will consist of current or recently laid-off police officers from across the state and are expected to be in place by June. The department also plans to recruit 60 officers, who will have to go through extensive training before they can hit the streets, hopefully within 14 to 15 months, Cranley said.

It will be the city's first recruit class since 2008.

Meanwhile, the department will form a gang unit and a youth program, both aimed at preventing homicides.

"We're trying to get in front of the problem and not simply be reactive," Blackwell said.

Among those efforts will be focusing on the city's crime hot spots.

For instance, Blackwell said roughly 30 blocks of the city account for 15 percent of all violent crimes and 10 percent of homicides.

The most recent killing occurred Saturday, when 20-year-old Curtiss Hill Jr. was found shot on a sidewalk in the city's Evanston neighborhood. Earlier that day, 34-year-old Steven Gilbert died from gunshot wounds he suffered the night before in the East Price Hill neighborhood.

The youngest of the homicide victims was 11-year-old Shanti Lanza, whose father accidentally shot her Jan. 13 when prosecutors say he returned home drunk and the girl's mother forced him to leave. Police say Deandre Kelley, 34, was outside the home when he fired two gunshots into the air, with one of the bullets hitting Shanti, who had been hiding in an upstairs bedroom. He has pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and having a weapon under disability.

Last year, there were a total of 75 homicides in Cincinnati, a 42 percent increase from the previous year.

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