AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Police Department is planning to beef up its presence in some neighborhoods this summer in an effort to cut down on violence and remove more illegal guns off the streets.
The Gun Violence Initiative received funding from city council which will pay overtime for the extra officers.
"It's just a force multiplier, adding these additional officers that just really attack the parts of our community who are suffering the most from shots fired and gun violence," said Captain Dave Laughlin.
The plan is to increase the number of officers on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. beginning Memorial Day weekend and continuing throughout the summer.
Police will use crime data and intelligence on where criminals are living to determine which neighborhoods to concentrate on.
"We're not taking our officers out of districts to perform this function. We still have the officers in their districts patrolling, doing their part to reduce the gun violence," Laughlin said.
The department has focused on taking illegal guns off the streets in recent years.
In 2020, 941 guns were seized. In 2021, 1,282 guns were seized which was a record for the department. So far, 181 guns have been taken off Akron streets in 2022, compared to 254 guns at this time last year.
The number of crimes related to discharging firearms as well as assaults and murders with guns totaled 843 in 2020. That number dipped to 701 last year.
In 2020, the city experienced a staggering 50 murders. In 2021, the number of murders recorded was 42. There have been 12 murders in the city in 2022.
While the decrease in gun violence in encouraging, Captain Laughlin stressed there's still a lot of work to do.
He pointed to the April murder of Teyaurra Harris, 21, and this week's shooting of LaTajah Leatherwood, 28, who remains on life support at Akron General Medical Center, according to her mother.
Both women were passengers in cars when they were shot. Both cases remain unsolved.
"Those are the things that drive us every day to do more to be more innovative," Laughlin said.
Eric Garrett, owner of Great Expectations Barber College, was asked by Police Chief Steve Mylett to be on a task force for hiring and recruitment and reducing gun violence.
Garrett is pleased that the department is stepping up efforts during the summer, a time when crime typically spikes.
"I think it's an amazing idea. It's our tax dollars, so if that's the way we're going to spend them to reduce gun violence, I'm all for it," Garrett said.