Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Avondale, police plan crime crackdown

Burnet Area Business District is target of stepped-up patrols

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Avondale residents, businesspeople and Cincinnati police agreed Monday to wage a stepped-up effort against drugs and crime in the Burnet Area Business District, a quarter-mile stretch north of Children's Hospital.

        Assistant Police Chief Ronald Twitty said in a meeting at J&W Restaurantthat all he needs is cooperation from the community to get started.

        The morning meeting was called by Tom Jones, president of the Avondale Community Council.

        Mr. Jones asked police to step up monitoring of the area by adding two patrol cars with two officers in each car to patrol six days a week for eight weeks.

        ""We would like to have a 24-hour patrol, but I think the area needs to be patroled at a minimum of eight hours a day,” Mr. Jones said.

        About 50 people crowded into the restaurant at Burnet and Rockdale to listen to the call for help. Outside, small groups of people loitered on street corners next to a range of businesses, including barbershops and salons, thrift and grocery stores, and a garage.

        The tone of the meeting was set by William “Babe” Baker, owner of the VIP

        Lounge and Babe Baker's place on Reading Road.

        “We will never clean up Burnet Avenue unless we rise up and do it ourselves,” Mr. Baker said. “We need to stop blaming the city and stop talking about being depressed.”

        Mr. Baker has owned and operated nightclubs in Avondale, Walnut Hills, West End, downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

        Lt. Col. Twitty told the group that it is time to put up or shut up.

        “I am here today to tell you that we have the resources. I am here to put up and get started. We don't have an excuse for not doing what is needed. Let us know what is needed and we can start a partnership,” he said.

        Capt. David Ratcliff, commander of Police District 4, which includes the Burnet Avenue area, said he could do the same drug-sweep operation in Avondale as was done in the Peebles Corner in Walnut Hills recently if he is given the officers.

        Capt. Ratcliff said, District 4 has 152 officers who patrol 10 neighborhoods, including Corryville, Roselawn and Walnut Hills.

        He said he dissolved the District 4 mini-tactical unit — specialty officers who target drug trafficking and vice — because he did not have sufficient backup.

        In January and February, Cincinnati crime statistics show Avondale had 191 serious crimes - including two slayings, five rapes, 17 robberies, 36 burglaries and 21 auto thefts - for an average of 95.5 serious crimes per month. During 2000, Avondale averaged 86.4 serious crimes per month, statistics show.

        Individual statistics for the Burnet Avenue area were not available Monday.

        In Walnut Hills, the neighborhood business association asked police to do a sweep, Capt. Ratcliff said. The entire operation took three months and resulted in 19 drug-related indictments, he said.

        “The situation was critical there,” Capt. Ratcliff said. “There were guys walking in front of businesses and telling customers they had to pay them to watch their cars while they shopped.”

        According to at least one businessman, the problem along Burnet Avenue is more than drug peddling.

        Mik Jallaq, owner of J&W Grocery, restaurant and a video store, said he was the victim of a break-in Thursday that cost him $6,000 in damages and goods. He also said he has received $15,000 in bogus payroll checks, as well as counterfeit money, over the past six months.

        The cost to use two patrol cars with two officers in each car, patrolling eight hours, six days a week for eight weeks would be $19,584, Lt. Col. Twitty said.

        Mr. Jones suggested that cost could be split among 43 businesses in the Burnet Area Business Association, though it normally would be paid from the Cincinnati police budget. Mr. Jones said he plans to call Lt. Col. Twitty today to get started.

        Mr. Jones, who also is president of the Avondale Public Safety Task Force, has coordinated a number of drug sweeps with District 4 police. In 1999, their efforts resulted in 335 arrests between March and September.

        “This time we don't want to make a sweep and then leave,” Mr. Jones said. “We are trying to set up a 24-hour call-in service for police and residents.”


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