CLEVELAND — Memorial Day coming up marks the unofficial start of summer, and Cleveland City Council is already voicing concerns about the spike in crime that typically follows when warmer weather approaches. Homicides and robberies with firearms are up over 14% in Cleveland compared to this time last year.
Councilman Michael Polensek said those statistics are too high and are a bad sign for what's to come this summer.
"Be responsible; set the tone," Polensek added. "A neighborhood is only as good as the people in it."
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb is announcing his administration's summer safety plan Thursday afternoon.
This comes as Cleveland Police revealed staffing levels are dangerously low. The department is short over 200 officers, and nearly 300 officers are ready to retire at any time.
"There's no substitute for men and women in blue patrolling our neighborhood, and if you don't have them, that's a major problem," Polensek said.
Polensek hopes Bibb will enforce his recommendation to request Ohio State Highway Patrol to assist CPD with traffic enforcement and response times. Councilman Richard Starr said he's tired of writing condolences to Ward 5 families. Priority emergency calls where there appears to be a threat to life in Cleveland have increased over 7% this year.
"I hope in the plan the mayor has is an actual plan that's going to encourage officers to arrive at scenes in a timely manner, but also get more officers into the streets opposed to being behind some desk like most of the time," said Starr.
Founder of The Multi-purpose Trauma Recovery Center, Brenda Glass, said she's seeing more patients trying to navigate living in a permanent state of anxiety and dismay.
"Definitely engulfed in fear each time I meet with someone," said Glass. They said, 'I am just afraid to come out of my house or even afraid to be in my house. I hear shots outside, and my children automatically know to hit the floor.' That's saddening."
Glass wants Bibb to allocate more funding to community-based programs.
"I am just praying something intervenes in all of this because it's started already," Glass added.
Almost six months into 2023, the number of car thefts continues to soar with an over 80% increase since last year, and there's also been an over 30% increase in curfew citations for minors. Polensek said most of Cleveland's troubles circle back to one common theme he hopes is fixed soon.
"It's the chicken and the egg; if you don't have the police officers, you can put all the curfew laws you want in effect, but you have to have people working the street," Polensek.
Watch live and local news any time:
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.
You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.