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Cincinnati might reduce the number of police districts, avoiding cost of a new District 5 HQ

The District 5 headquarters for Cincinnati Police is at 5837 Hamilton, a strip mall in College Hill without a secure parking lot.
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The District 5 headquarters for Cincinnati Police is at 5837 Hamilton, a strip mall in College Hill without a secure parking lot.

Cincinnati officials want to consider whether the city needs five police districts, or if fewer would be appropriate. A change could help the city avoid the cost of replacing the District 5 headquarters, which has been planned for at least five years.

Interim City Manager John Curp says he's requesting funds in the budget to hire a consultant that would produce a "public safety facilities master plan." It would include the Fire Department as well; the city is split into four fire districts and operates 26 fire stations.

Officers have occupied the current station in a strip mall in College Hill since 2017. It was supposed to be a temporary location after vacating the old station on Ludlow in Clifton, which had some air quality health concerns.

Police officials say the temporary facility wasn't designed to be a police station; plus, there are bullet holes and a crumbling ceiling. The city estimates constructing a new HQ would cost between $20 million and $30 million.

"And before the city invests $20 million, we wanted to look at the current status of all the facilities across the city, and whether or not we truly need a new District 5 headquarters, or whether or not we can find a way to combine facilities to be more efficient and how we spend taxpayers dollars on policing," Curp said.

Curp says there's no plan to reduce the number of police or fire officers, or to reduce policing in any neighborhoods. His office analyzed response time and hotspot data for District 5 to determine whether moving the HQ from Clifton to College Hill in 2017 had an effect.

"And the result of the examination was that there was no difference in response time, which is consistent with what we know about modern policing," Curp said. "Therefore, where the district headquarters is located, really doesn't affect the quality of service to the community."

District 5 covers Clifton Heights-University Heights-Fairview, Camp Washington, Clifton, Northside, Winton Hills, Winton Place, College Hill, and Mt. Airy. It includes most of the University of Cincinnati campus, Good Samaritan Hospital, and the Cincinnati Zoo.

Interim Police Chief Teresa Theetge provided a statement saying CPD welcomes the idea of a master facilities plan.

"The master plan will not only analyze the needs of District 5, but all our districts," Theetge said. "Doing a comprehensive study is necessary to continue to provide the best service to the citizens of Cincinnati and high-quality facilities to our officers, no matter their district assignment."

Council Member Scotty Johnson is a former CPD officer and chair of council's Public Safety and Governance Committee.

"We want to make sure that we're doing things as efficient and as productive as possible as a city. So when we talk about exploring those things, we got to wait to see what the study would show," Johnson said.

The funds for a study will be part of the administration's draft budget for fiscal year 2023, which is being released Thursday morning. Council will approve a final budget by the end of June.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.