Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Killings at 26-year high

Former police officer's son 75th victim in city

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BOND HILL - A day after a bullet made his stepson Cincinnati's 75th homicide victim of 2003, former assistant police chief Ron Twitty was making plans for two things: A funeral and a new community effort to stop the city's escalating violence.

Cincinnati has seen its most murderous year in 26 years. And for the fifth straight year has recorded more killings than in the year before.

Most of the victims, like Twitty's stepson, Allen Shannon, have been young, black men. They've been killed most often in Over-the-Rhine, the West End and Avondale. More than 85 percent were shot to death and more than 40 percent were slain between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

While authorities had not established a motive in Shannon's death, Police Chief Tom Streicher has said at least 90 percent of the city's killings are drug-related.

On Tuesday, Twitty joined Mayor Charlie Luken and Cincinnati City Council member David Pepper in their increasing concern for the city's killing pace and in their calls to mobilize community members to fight the trend.

"I've got some ideas,'' Twitty said. "It takes a commitment to stay the course and stay focused. You've got to stake your claim to your piece of the city.''

Twitty said he has to focus on his son's funeral before he launches any specific plans aimed at bringing down the violence that has now directly affected his family.

Shannon, 30, was shot a little after 8 p.m. Monday in an SUV outside the Carolina Avenue house where his children live. His parents spoke to him two hours before, when he told them he was going to get a haircut. They called him then, Twitty said, to find out if he knew the victim in a homicide that occurred just five hours earlier and three blocks away. Daniel White, 21, of Winton Terrace, was found shot to death in an alley across the street from Bond Hill Elementary School Monday afternoon.

Twitty said Shannon had made some unfortunate choices in his life. He pleaded no contest in August to drug possession and was fined $100. He was put on probation in 2001 for possession of marijuana.

In the last two months, Shannon had attended the funerals of two friends, both of whom were also shot to death in Bond Hill.

Twitty no longer works in the police department after he resigned last year as part of a plea deal to resolve a criminal case over damage to his city-owned vehicle.

No easy fix

Luken called the rise in killings a "call to action."

"I don't think we can accept the explanation that sometimes the number goes up and sometimes it goes down," he said Tuesday. "But there's no quick and easy fix here."

Luken said he would meet in the next few days with Streicher and City Manager Valerie Lemmie to discuss ways to curb homicides in 2004. He also said he is working to gather community leaders, clergy and others through the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission to talk about how residents can help decrease killings.

"I'd certainly love to see us do something new,'' said Capt. Vince Demasi, commander of the police department's criminal investigations section. "But I don't know what that would be. I think what we need is for people willing to step up and say they're not going to tolerate drugs in their neighborhoods.''

Pepper, chairman of council's Law and Public Safety Committee, will announce Tuesdaya schedule of neighborhood "safety summits" he hopes will help mobilize residents into working more with police. He'll start in Over-the-Rhine, the West End, Avondale, Northside and Price Hill.

Based on Cincinnati's population of 331,285 in the 2000 census, the city's homicide rate jumped more in the last three years than the rate of killings in larger and historically more dangerous cities.

Just over 40 percent of Cincinnati's 75 killings remain unsolved


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