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Prostitution, Drugs And Parties Afflicting Some Cincinnati Neighborhoods, Residents Say

Michael E. Keating

Cincinnati has been dealing with a significant increase in shootings and homicides. But some residents told a City Council committee Tuesday that smaller violations are plaguing their neighborhoods.

Those include things like prostitution, drug use, drug dealing, street parties and drag racing.

Bob Sehlhorst lives and operates a business in Over-the-Rhine. He told the committee that COVID-19 has reduced the number of people in the neighborhood.

"In this vacuum of vacancy, we have crowds of people driving into our neighborhood on random nights, looking to party and raise hell on our sidewalks and streets," Sehlhorst said. "They double-park; block our streets and alleys; they openly drink; smoke dope; publicly urinate; blast their car stereos sometimes until 4 a.m. or 5 a.m."

Another Over-the-Rhine property owner said he's lost three commercial tenants over safety concerns, and an apartment manager in Downtown told the committee some residents have left apartments because of safety issues and crimes at Piatt Park.

Residents and officials blame part of the uptick in these crime on the perception in the community that police are ignoring these violations.

"There seems to be a belief on the streets that there are less police and that there will be less enforcement of minor infractions, everything from the traffic issues to noise to all sorts of stuff," said Elizabeth Bartley, who's the executive director of Invest in Neighborhoods.

Some people apparently believe officers are more focused on violence. Some also believe police have slowed enforcement or are worried about taking enforcement actions after recent protests against police following incidents in Minneapolis, Minn., and Louisville, Ky.

In Roselawn, residents there are seeing an increase in prostitution and open-air drug dealing.

Ronald Mosley is the president of the Roselawn Business Alliance, and he blames what he calls "predator landlords."

"They know what these people are doing, and they permit it to go on," Mosley said. "What I would like to see, because I think we have the police at a disadvantage, you know, they have only to deal with the law. But there are other laws that are on the books that we can do something about this. We have to follow the problem all the way back to the source and I don't think we've been doing that."

Mosley suggested these issues could be addressed with code violations from the building inspections and health departments.

Scarlet Hudson with Women of Alabaster, an organization that aims to stop human trafficking, said one issue with getting men and women off the street and into care is the lack of treatment space.

"We need a facility here in the city, where we can take a woman or a man, and immediately get them into help and services," Hudson said. "If we require of them to call on a telephone, do an over the phone assessment, wait four to six weeks to get into a facility, we are going to lose them."

Law and Public Safety Committee members and police leadership pledged to work collaboratively with neighborhoods on addressing the issues.

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.