Saturday, July 22, 2000

Homicides continue to fall

Hamilton Co. reports 41 in 1999

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Forty-one people were victims of homicide in Hamilton County last year — the lowest number in at least 15 years.

        The statistics, included in a new report by the county coroner's office, are an example of the downturn in violent crime locally and nationally. The 41 is down from 43 in 1998, the report says, and down from a high of 85 in 1987.

        That mirrors national numbers. In 1998, almost 17,000 murders happened in the United States, according to the FBI. That's fewer than in any year since 1970 and made for a lower murder rate (murders per 100,000 population) than in any year since 1967.

        Violent crime overall — which also includes rape, robbery and other offenses — declined 7 percent between 1997 and 1998, the latest complete FBI numbers available.

        The cause of these declines is unclear to law enforcement officials. But they have some clues. Among them:


  • A decade of increased attention to juvenile crime is dovetailing with a reduction in violent crimes committed by kids, according to the Of fice of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. That is in spite of continued growth in the juvenile population.

            „Police agencies have focused more in recent years on community-oriented policing, putting officers in closer contact with residents to stop problems before they escalate. Critics say this doesn't have a great impact, but many police chiefs disagree.

            „Other theories say longer jail sentences are keep ing more criminals at bay or even that criminals learned something from the violent 1980s.

            Of the 41 Hamilton County homicides in 1999, most — 33 — happened in Cincinnati. Forest Park investigated two, and one homicide occurred in Groesbeck, Sharonville and Springdale each.

            Just over half of the total, or 22 homicides, resulted from handgun violence, with nine from blunt-force trauma and four from strangulation. Three were stabbings.

            Of the 41 victims, almost 34 percent tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol. African-American males were most often the victims, at 18, followed by white males at 12.

            The most common age group for the victims was 32 to 51. Seventeen fit that category.

            The numbers include three victims who were hurt outside Hamilton County, but died here after being brought to local hospitals.

            So far this year, Cincinnati detectives have investigated 17 homicides in 71/2 months. If the current pace continues throughout the year, next year's report would show, at least, a leveling off.

            “But that's not something you can predict,” cautioned Cincinnati homicide Lt. Mike Jones.

            Nonetheless, numbers such as these help boost the perception that Cincinnati is a safe place to live and visit. Officials of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce say the city's safe reputation figures prominently in their marketing of the area and in attracting businesses.

            “We have and continue to point to safety and the low crime rate as part of the quality of life in Cincinnati,” said Joe Kramer, the chamber's vice president of economic development. “Certainly, crime is a showstopper if it's a problem.”

            The Hamilton County coroner's annual report for last year also found:

            • An increase in deaths from motor vehicle accidents — 118 in 1999 vs. 103 in 1998. Of the 118 victims in 1999, 20 tested positive for alcohol and/or drugs.

            • Accidental deaths from fires, drug overdoses and drownings totaled 330. More than one-third of accidental deaths were people killed in falls; the majority of those people were 72 years of age or older.

            • Just over half, or 501, of all the deaths investigated were found to be from natural causes. Of those, almost 70 percent were blamed on cardiovascular disease.

            õNinety-three cases were ruled suicides, the same number as in 1998. January was the most common month for suicides, with 12 cases.


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