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Gang activity and violence escalating in Cleveland despite colder winter months

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-19 17:44:08-05

We're not used to seeing much crime in the dead of winter, the cold weather should be keeping criminals in check.

Only News 5 has been digging into why this winter is different and why criminals are targeting a specific type of community.

They're called fringe neighborhoods. People living in communities around the edges of Cleveland's city limits.

Traditionally these are quieter parts of town, but now the people who live here are living in fear.

Home windows riddled with bullet holes — they're the images that often spark new rounds of violence on the streets of Cleveland.

"We have boots on the ground to stop it from escalating," said Jeffrey Crosby, Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance.

On most days, when classes at Collinwood High School end you will find a handful of ambassadors from the Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance mingling among a sea of students working to build relationships and prevent retaliation.

Jeffrey Crosby, a violence interrupter, is busy these days.

"There's been an uptick in violence," he said.

Crosby and his team focus their efforts on hot spots, which this week was Pawnee Avenue on the Cleveland-Euclid border.

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The North Collinwood neighborhood was scene of a string of shootings, as gang activity in the city escalates.

"Right now there's beefs going on throughout the city, not just Pawnee, throughout the city there's a lot of conflicts going on," said Crosby.

Those conflicts, bringing new safety risks to parts of town not used to seeing lots of violence.

"These areas are being descended upon by a criminal element," said Mike Polensek, Cleveland City Councilman.

Polensek is talking about fringe areas of the city which historically have low crime rates. The silence of those relatively safe neighborhoods shattered by gunshots.

"I know there are individuals who think my neighborhood is easy pickings," said Polensek.

Polensek also points out this is a problem in other parts of the city, on the west and southwest sides seeing the same thing.

"These areas have become ripe for crime and I don't see an appropriate response coming out of the Cleveland Police Department to deal with that and I find that unacceptable," said Polensek.

Meantime, Crosby remains focused on tackling the flaring tempers that could lead to the next shooting.

"It's the conflicts we have to mediate right now, so there at a lot of conflicts going on throughout the city," he said. 

Polensek tells News 5 he feels fringe neighborhoods are at a greater risk because they are traditionally lower crime areas they tend to see less police presence making them easier targets.