Homicide numbers up in many Ohio cities in 2015

Posted at 4:37 PM, Dec 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-24 06:03:22-05

A NewsChannel 5 Investigation found the numbers of homicides in many U.S. cities, including five of Ohio’s largest cities increased in 2015.

“We see changes in the dynamics of things, like organized gang activities, and when we see increases in rivalries among organized gangs,  like we've seen in Cleveland, Chicago, and Baltimore this year those are often behind increases in lethal violence,” said Wendy Regoeczi, a criminologist at Cleveland State University.

For example, Cleveland police detectives said the death of 3-year-old Major Howard in a drive-by shooting in September was gang-related.

A total of 118 homicides have been reported in Cleveland in 2015, a 16 percent increase from 2014.

27 homicides have been report in Akron, a 17 percent increase from 2014.

Cincinnati, Parma, and Youngstown also experienced increased rising homicide rates this year.

NewsChannel 5 Investigators also found several other U.S. cities have experienced startling surges in their homicide rates.

Milwaukee has seen a 65 percent spike in homicides. 142 homicides have been reported so far this year. There were 86 in 2014.

Washington D.C. has seen a 60 percent increase in homicides. 155 have been reported in 2015. There were 97 in 2014.

Baltimore has also experienced a 65 percent increase in the number of homicides. 332 murders have been reported so far this year. There were 201 in 2014.

Cleveland resident Benjie Alatise’s oldest son is among Baltimore's many victims.

Police said Troy Midder was in a car with another man when both were shot outside a Baltimore gas station in September.

"For some reason, that night, I was uneasy," Alatise recalled. "My phone rang, and it was my baby sister. She said 'Benjie,' and for some reason, I felt it."

Alatise immediately got in her car and left for Baltimore. "On the way there, my sister called back. She said 'I want you to say goodbye to [Troy].' I just told him how much I love him and that I was on my way,” she said.

Midder passed away hours later. His murder remains unsolved.

“He was the apple of everyone's eye,” said Alatise.

“Going beyond the call of duty to assist people; taking the shirt off his back to give to somebody else to be warm, that's the type of person Troy was,” she said.

Alatise said she is determined to bring her son’s murderer to justice.

"I hear him saying 'Mom, you're a trooper, and if anybody can find my killer, you can,' " Alatise said.

Pundits and some law enforcement officials have attributed the rising murder rates to the so-called ‘Ferguson effect.’

It is the theory police officers fear taking action after the shooting death of an unarmed black man in the St. Louis suburb sparked national protests in 2014.

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Regoeczi said there is no proof the effect is real.

“I do not believe the homicides that are happening here are the result of the so-called ‘Ferguson effect,' ” she said.

“The few studies that have been done that have tried to empirically address whether a ‘Ferguson effect’ is behind increases in homicides in Los Angeles, New York City, and St. Louis have not  found any evidence of such an effect there,” she said.

However, Regoeczi said strained relations between police and citizens can impact officers’ ability to put murderers behind bars.

“There’s a fair amount of empirical evidence which shows strong police community relations are a very significant factor in police being able to solve homicides,” she said.

Alatise said communities need to stop accepting violence and share information with police.

“Tell what you know. You need to get those persons off the street,” she said.

“If you can protest about a police officer killing a black person then you need to protest about a black person killing a black person,” she said. “A life is a life is a life."