Thursday, June 07, 2001

Street violence raises tensions

Police suspect gang involved in shooting

By Tim Bonfield and Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When 18-year-old Jason Gandy was gunned down Tuesday outside a Northside apartment building, his death marked another threshold in a surge of violence this year in Cincinnati.

        Killings are up. Nonfatal shootings are up. Even bank robberies are up. And at least some of the increasing violence appears gang-related, police say.

        Among the signs:

        • Between April 1 and May 28, 33 nonfatal shootings were reported by Cincinnati police, compared to just six during the same period in 2000.

        • Five months into 2001, there were 20 homicides; for all of 2000 there were 29.

        • In less than six months, there were 23 bank robberies, compared with 24 in all of 2000.

        Police can't say for sure how much of the crime is gang-related, but Officer Eric Smoot, of the Cincinnati Police Division's gang unit, said he has noticed a jump in gang activity since the April riots.

        “All these shootings are a way of establishing boundaries, with revenge killings,” he said.

        “I've never seen it to this degree in Cincinnati. We used to see a lot of people identifying themselves (with gangs) when gangs were first in vogue. Then they went underground. Now it's coming back out with a vengeance.”

        Tuesday's killing was probably gang-related, police said. Four men in two vehicles fled the scene. The investigation is ongoing.

        Mr. Gandy, of College Hill, was shot and killed outside an apartment building in the 4200 block of Hamilton Avenue, a spot that neighbors say has been trouble for months.

        “It's gotten worse,” said Richard Von Nida, owner of a rental house across the street. “That apartment complex has been a real bad place. There's a lot of continuous drug activity going on there.”

        That doesn't mean Mr. Gandy was a gang member, added Vernon Delaney of Northside. “I used to talk to him a lot.

        “He wasn't in a gang. He wasn't a violent person. He was taking it easy mostly.”

        Gangs have long existed in Cincinnati but it was the riots, Officer Smoot said, that brought them out in force. Suspected gang members showed their colors as they set fire to buildings, looted stores and wreaked havoc — often in front of TV cameras.

        Some groups are becoming more concerned about the violence. Cincinnati City Council candidate Sam Malone, for instance, is planning a march to go with a “Teen Youth Stop the Violence” rally June 16. The march would start at Swifton Commons and end at Roselawn Park. However, the city has not yet approved a permit for the march.

        In Northside, residents hope Tuesday's killing does not damage recent efforts to improve the image of the neighborhood.

        “Obviously, this is a setback,” said Tim Jeckering, president of the community council.

        “But I think these are isolated incidents. The neighborhood is stronger now than it has been in years.”

       Enquirer reporter Jane Prendergast contributed.


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