Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Elder students warned after shooting death of classmate
By Jane Prendergast
Enquirer staff writer
WEST PRICE HILL - When Elder High School students head to their stadium this morning to remember the senior who was shot to death Sunday night, they will also get a lesson in staying safe.
Principal Tom Otten will offer words of kindness about Maurice Kennedy, the 17-year-old gunned down on Glenway Avenue, across the street from Elder and Seton, the all-boys and all-girls Catholic high schools that have anchored the neighborhood for decades.
But Otten will also stress to students that they need to be aware of their surroundings when at the 82-year-old Elder High. Students need to lock their cars, hide valuables and walk in pairs or groups. And, if confronted by someone or a group of people, they should just walk away.
Otten's is the reality of operating a venerable institution in the modest but declining residential neighborhood.
Elder sits behind Seton but towers over the all-girls campus at 3901 Glenway Ave.
"The neighborhood is in transition,'' Otten said. "Things change. I don't know that it's been changing for the better, though.''
Maurice, who lived less than three blocks from the school, was walking along Glenway with his girlfriend and two other friends after eating tacos, his family said. He was shot and killed during an argument that erupted after an ongoing dispute between groups of neighborhood teens about 7:40 p.m. No one had been arrested Monday.
He was the 55th person in Cincinnati this year to be slain - a 17 percent increase over the 47 victims at this time last year.
The death prompted City Councilman John Cranley, who lives in Price Hill, to visit the house of Kennedy's family Monday to offer condolences. The city "has got to talk about the drug-dealing and crimes here,'' he said.
Reports of serious crimes - murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, theft and auto theft - dropped by almost 12 percent in West Price Hill in 2003 from the previous year, police department crime statistics show. Last year, two people were slain in the neighborhood; in 2002, three people were killed.
Councilman David Pepper, chairman of City Council's Law & Public Safety committee, said he will schedule a public forum in the next couple of weeks for people to voice concerns about Price Hill's crime problems. He said he wanted to let the students and family mourn Kennedy's death first. The service will start in the stadium known as the Pit about 8:15 a.m.
Pete Witte, president of the Price Hill Civic Club and owner of a business across the street from the killing, said he hoped the homicide would make city officials take notice of the worsening of crimes along this main thoroughfare on the city's West Side.
"We have institutions, business and a good mix,'' he said. "We're not going to die instantly. But we have to drive out the thugs.''
District 3 police officers were busy Monday afternoon in the area of the shooting as groups of teens walked along Glenway, angry that their "R.I.P. Reese'' message painted on the bricks of two businesses was going to be removed or covered up.
They walked in the street, blocking traffic, and yelled epithets at officers, who asked them to move along. Officers could watch all night, they said, but somebody would still come back and repaint their street memorial to their friend.
City officials and Witte expressed concern that Seton and Elder be protected as much as possible from crime because they are big draws for the neighborhood. For example, 10,000 fans are drawn to Elder's home football gamesFriday nights.
The schools are anchors on a street that's had some difficulty keeping businesses open - among them the original Skyline Chili parlor.
Otten said the changes in the neighborhood have not affected enrollment at the 1,074-boy school, where tuition is $6,300 a year.
But crime and fear of crime has heightened some parents' worries.
Frank St. Charles, a 1965 Elder graduate, said he won't let his 14-year-old freshman daughter walk from the Seton campus alone if she's there past 5 or 6 p.m.
"I would not want her walking two blocks on Glenway Avenue or in that neighborhood because there are punks over there, to put it mildly," St. Charles, 57, of Delhi Township. said. "It's sad what's happened over there. It's the worst it's ever been. That's why everybody is moving to the townships."
It's that attitude Witte's working to stop. "Now is absolutely the time to draw a line in the sand,'' he said. "It's time.''
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