Thursday, October 14, 2004

Council deaf to pleas for crime control



Peter Bronson

Cincinnati is getting mugged. That was the 911 call from about 150 people from Price Hill and Westwood, who crowded into City Hall on Wednesday night to beg for more cops. Council voted 5-4 to look the other way.

"We're facing a net loss of officers on the street,'' said Councilman John Cranley, urging council to back up its earlier promises to add 75 cops. Failing to do so "in a year of record homicides is outrageously irresponsible,'' he said.

But council members whistled and stared at their shoes.

"I'm tired of hearing council does not support the police,'' said Laketa Cole. Then she voted to not support the police because paying for more cops would be "reacting to crime, not preventing crime.'' As if cops don't do both.

Jim Tarbell had an idea. Just invest $6 million in Price Hill and the problems would be fixed.

Alicia Reece chose the spite alibi. Council has not passed her demand for a murder task force, and her black-on-black crime initiative was "beat down,'' so she voted no.

David Crowley said, "I don't know if adding a few more police officers is worth closing a firehouse.'' So take your pick, citizens: Fire protection or police?

Crowley offered a motion to let the administration decide. That failed, too.

Chris Smitherman started talking and wound up preaching to his few fans in the crowd, ranting about "giveaway'' tax breaks to Convergys.

He said it's time to "pick up the trash.'' But he was talking about litter, not drug thugs.

It's not as if they didn't hear about the crime.

Speaker after speaker came to tell council they had been there before, two years ago, begging for help, and now the problem is worse.

"We are being terrorized, there's no other word for it,'' said Donna Reed of the Warsaw Merchants Association. "The middle class has moved out to Northern Kentucky and Indiana.''

Mark Jansen said his son was assaulted on their front porch in Price Hill. His wife's car was stolen. His window was broken. His lawn furniture was stolen. And he moved to Delhi.

But he worries that Elder students can't safely walk a half-mile to their athletic building.

Price Hill business owner Pete Witte pointed to the crowd behind him and said, "This is Cincinnati. To me, this is the eyes, faces and voices of the middle class that is fleeing the city. If council can't recognize this, we might as well chuck it.''

Janice Ludwig drew applause when she asked, "Why would anyone vote against something to prevent crime? I don't get it.''

She said the problem is lack of unity on council. And council members quickly proved it with personal attacks, irrelevant monologues and the bickering they do so well.

The crowd left angry.

"It was very discouraging,'' Ludwig said.

"All of a sudden, they are fiscally responsible. Amazing. Bizarre,'' Witte said. "What they did was say, 'Crime is not such an issue.' That was the wrong statement to send to this crowd tonight.''

It's the wrong statement to the whole region. The city's getting mugged. And council won't even send a cop.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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