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With Gun Violence Surging In Cincinnati, Council Committee Searches For Solutions

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An Airbnb in Cincinnati's Pendleton neighborhood was the most recent site of a party that turned violent.

Cincinnati Council's Law and Public Safety Committee talked for nearly three hours Tuesday morning about the recent spike in gun violence in the city. As of Monday, there have been 68 homicides in the city. That compares to 73 homicides for all of 2019.

There have been 355 gunshot victims so far this year, compared to 356 for all of 2019.

The council committee heard from different speakers on proposals to control the violence, but there was no decision on a specific plan or set of recommendations.

Those suggestions include things like more police visibility, rebuilding the economies of neighborhoods that have a high number of shootings, and increasing and funding violence prevention efforts in some neighborhoods. 

Police Chief Eliot Isaac is developing a plan to address the increasing gun violence, but work on it is continuing.

Dr. Victor Garcia with Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center said the city needs to tackle the root cause of violence and its most dangerous neighborhoods. He said there are things the city can do to address those issues.

"It's beyond problem-solving. We need the police, but it's beyond problem-solving policing," Garcia said. "We need to transform the economic ecology of these neighborhoods and know, how do we build robust economies that really benefit all the individuals? Not moving people out, but really making where they live a place that is preferred by all people?"

Cincinnati FOP President Dan Hils said police officers know what works - getting the bad guys off the streets.  Hils said that involves more proactive policing. He said that could involve a city police officer having to use his or her firearm for defense. 

"I want to know what your (council members') reaction is going to be," Hils said. "Because we see the reaction of politicians across this country, often use a simple term, they can't wait to throw cops under the bus, and that's what a lot of our officers think is going to happen here."

There has also been a lot of discussion locally and around the country about the cash bond system, and whether it needs to be reformed.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Presiding Judge Charles Kubicki, Jr. said while imperfect, the use of the cash bond system has historically contributed to the orderly administration of justice.

"Requiring that bail be posted to secure pretrial release can increase public safety, protect witnesses from potential intimidation and reduce the risk of defendants fleeing the jurisdiction," Kubicki said. "And as many of you are aware, in addition we have the drug epidemic - it could also save the lives of the individuals who've been arrested."

Meanwhile, Chief Isaac sent a letter to Mayor John Cranley Monday stating the department has seen an increase in violent crime once the state of Ohio limited the operating hours of bars and restaurants because of COVID-19.

The state has ordered bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to stop sales at 10 p.m. and any alcohol on the table must be consumed by 11 p.m.

"Many of the incidents have occurred at 'after-hours' gatherings such as short-term Airbnb rentals or public areas where citizens are gathering as alternatives to liquor-permitted establishments," Isaac wrote in his letter. "CPD has recognized the increase in these assemblies has coincided with the regulations implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. The unintended consequences of the regulations have resulted in multiple shootings and assaults of which are unprecedented in the city of Cincinnati. The majority are documented to have occurred within these previously mentioned after-hours crowds which have posed various enforcement issues for our agency."

Cranley forwarded the police chief's letter to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

"We respectfully ask that you no longer impose a closure requirement on restaurant and bars at 10 p.m. so people can gather safely, wear masks and be subject to the safety offered by public establishments," Cranley wrote to the governor. "Of course, we should always be willing to adjust this decision as we gather more evidence as to what factors lead to less or more loss of life."

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.