CLEVELAND — Newly-released Cleveland police numbers show murders are up 59% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period a year ago.
Cleveland police said 35 people were murdered in the city in the first quarter of 2021. That's compared to 22 murders between January 1st and March 31st 2020.
According to police records, the 177 homicides in 2020 was the highest total since 1991 in Cleveland.
"When we talk to those young people, they're afraid," said Myesha Crowe, Executive Director of Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance, a group working to combat violence in the city. "They are afraid to walk to the store, to walk to their friend's home or even walk to places that are safe right now in the pandemic."
Police statistics showed 17 of the victims murdered this year were between 18 and 33 years old.
They're numbers Crowe called heartbreaking.
"We call it a good day if we only get two alerts," said Crowe holding her phone filled with text messages she receives when there's a shooting. "But these are still two lives that may have been lost, two families that have been destroyed, two communities that need restoration and healing."
Crowe believes at least part of the increase in violence can be blamed on COVID-19.
She said the pandemic shuttered many of the places and services teens turned to in order to stay off the streets.
With more people getting vaccinated, she believes a return to normalcy could help stop the rise in violent crime.
"It's my hope that the numbers do not continue to rise when the vaccine is more affordable to Black and Brown communities through education, to be an alternative to violence and COVID," said Crowe.
In the meantime, Crowe said she and her team of 17 workers will continue community outreach hoping to reach teens who see little escape from the violence.
"Please don't give up hope," said Crowe. "You do not need a gun to be cool. Your life is worth far more than comments and likes on social media. We need you alive and free."
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