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Residents Are 'Tired Of Meetings' About Gun Violence — They Want Action

Westside residents had a clear message for Cincinnati council members Monday night: they're tired of meetings about violent crime and ready for action. Nearly a hundred people attended a special session of the Neighborhoods Committee in East Westwood.

Aurelia Persley says she doesn't feel safe with her two kids in East Westwood, and she worries about being the next target of gun violence.

"I could step out my door and somebody could be shooting right there next to me," Persley said. "I don’t want that every time I step outside. I don't want anybody to have to go through that every time they step outside or go somewhere and have to get shot or killed because they're just stepping outside the door."

East Westwood has been a particular focus for public officials since two young children were shot here in June; 8-year-old MJ Whitehead is still hospitalized with severe brain damage.

Several residents said it shouldn't have taken such an extreme incident to get the attention of elected officials.

Vicki Graves-Hill is principal of Roll Hill School, where the meeting was held. She started her comments with a list of 12 names: all former students of hers who have been murdered in gun violence.

"These are not just random students that are getting shot," Graves-Hill said. "These are students that I actually love, these are students that walked up to me and hugged me as little innocent children. And something happened from the time they walked across the stage at Roll Hill to when they became 21, 22."

Lisa Hyde-Miller is community relations coordinator for the Villages of Roll Hill. She says weapons are only part of the problem of gun violence and other crime.

"The attitudes, the emotions, the reactions, the stress, the depression, the loneliness, that's all part of the problem as well," Hyde-Miller said. "We have to address those issues." 

Many applauded the Cincinnati Police Department's District 3 for working with community leaders to build relationships. Several pointed to non-law enforcement strategies as the missing piece, especially access to resources and city funding.

Rev. Alvin Scales seemed to capture the feeling in the room: "I'm tired of going to meetings," he said. "I'm a feet on the street guy."

Residents suggested several specific ideas they say can be part of the solution:

  • Building a recreation center in East Westwood
  • Other youth-focused programming
  • Bringing a grocery store to East Westwood
  • A crosswalk in front of Third Presbyterian Church, which hosts a lot of youth and community programming
  • Resurrect the Citizens Committee on Youth program
  • A DARE-style program in schools focused on gun violence instead of drugs
  • A billboard campaign about gun violence
  • Better maintenance of city property in the neighborhood

The meeting is the latest of several focused on gun violence and public safety. Council Member Betsy Sundermann will host a forum in Over-the-Rhine Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Ensemble Theater.