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Increased enforcement, rec center resources to play pivotal role in Mayor Bibb's summer crime reduction plan

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Posted at 6:44 PM, May 25, 2023

CLEVELAND — With increases in homicides, robberies and felonious assaults so far this year, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, Chief Wayne Drummond and other city and community leaders outlined the city’s summer safety plan Thursday afternoon.

The plan to address violent crime — the level of which Mayor Bibb said he had been outraged by — targets both the symptoms and root causes, officials said.

As of Thursday, the city has logged 66 homicides year to date, which is a slight increase compared to the 63 homicides tallied over the same periods in 2022 and 2021. According to police crime data, compared to the same period in 2022, there have been substantial increases in the number of robberies involving firearms (14%), felonious assaults involving firearms (9%), arson (40%) and thefts (7.8%).

The dramatic increase in the number of stolen motor vehicles (83%) is partially an anomaly, primarily due to the well-documented surge in thefts involving Kias and Hyundais.

“This year, the numbers aren’t where I want them to be. I think all of us are outraged by the level of violence that we see on our streets,” Bibb said. “As every member of our administration will tell you, I will not stop looking for additional resources and more tools to keep Cleveland safe, whether it’s expanding violence interrupters or making sure that we have recovery homes for victims of gun violence, or supporting our faith-based leaders to help us walk the streets to reduce violent crime. On the law enforcement side, more investments in police. On the violence prevention side, it’s really investing in a long-time comprehensive approach.”

Drummond spoke plainly and bluntly during a press conference at the Collinwood Recreation Center Thursday afternoon when he referenced an overnight homicide that claimed the life of a 42-year-old man, and the shooting of a 7-year-old girl earlier this week. Although police said the shooting of the young girl may have been accidental, detectives are actively investigating who might have brought the firearm into the house.

“Violent crime has increased — no question about it. It bothers me. I hope it bothers [everyone],” Drummond said. “That should shock you to your core when you see things like that and when you report on things like that… Just last night, we had someone else killed last night in the city of Cleveland by gun violence. It’s important as well that person that was shot and killed last night looks like me. The vast majority of our homicide victims look like me.”

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As part of the city's summer crime reduction plan, the Division of Police will be leaning heavily on its recent investments in technology and the ShotSpotter system, which Drummond said has significantly aided law enforcement in identifying victims and gathering evidence quickly. Additionally, the ShotSpotter system has indirectly helped in as many as 12 lives being saved because officers could quickly arrive and triage the gunshot victim.

On top of the division's investments in technology, Drummond said Cleveland Police would also be relying on the division's partnerships with state and federal law enforcement, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol, FBI, DEA, U.S. Marshals and ATF. Drummond and Bibb hinted at multiple targeted enforcement details in the coming weeks and over the summer, which will specifically hone in on narcotics and gang-related activity.

"This is a community-wide effort, and government cannot do it alone," Mayor Bibb said.

While law enforcement will be tasked with addressing the symptoms of violent crime, staff at each of the city's nearly two dozen recreation centers will be focusing on the root causes.

"As we go into the summer season, this will be the first time that we have neighborhood-based social workers and youth development workers in every neighborhood recreation and resource center in our community," said Sonya Pryor-Jones, the city's chief of youth and family success. "Our social support specialists are available in all of our recreation centers every day. They are key to supporting our parents with their specific needs."

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The specially-trained staff and social workers at the recreation centers will be on hand to assist families that may need social services — whether it be victim advocacy or food insecurity — and serve as a vital link between available resources and those that need them.

Earlier this week, the city council passed an ordinance that would create a $10 million violence-prevention endowment fund. The Cleveland Foundation would administer the funding and has been designed to create a perpetual source of financial support for initiatives to reduce violent crime. City officials project the initial $10 million investment will provide $13 million in grants over the next 25 years.

"We are anticipating that this fund is going to be monumental in our work against violent crimes in our community from a preventive measure perspective," Pryor-Jones said. "Cleveland is not alone, but Cleveland actually is doing something new and innovative by establishing the Neighborhood Safety Fund."

In the short term, the city and CMSD are encouraging families to take advantage of the extensive programming scheduled throughout the summer, including STEM classes, dance, e-sports and other fine arts. The midnight basketball league is also making a return this summer. Most of the recreation center programming will be free of charge, officials said.

"These are all free and available, and our tax dollars are at work making these things available for our children," Pryor-Jones said.

Stressing the theme that city government cannot curb violent crime alone, Bibb was sharply critical of Republican lawmakers in Columbus and Washington D.C., urging them to do more on the topic of gun reform.

"Columbus and Congress [in Washington D.C.] have to give us more tools and enforcement powers to get guns off the streets," Bibb said. "Another thing I didn't mention: judicial accountability. Some of our judges are letting repeat offenders with gun violations back on our streets. That's frankly unacceptable."