Friday, July 27, 2001

Merchants, residents grateful for patrols


Memories temper views

By Michael D. Clark and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Residents and merchants in embattled Over-the-Rhine welcome the increased show of force by Cincinnati police, but their optimism is tempered by the fresh memories of deadly violence.

        Those who live and work in the community initially targeted by the police division's new Violent Crimes Task Force said Thursday that the increase in cruiser and foot patrols over the past 24 hours was obvious and appreciated.

        Four more people on the division's new 42-person Most Wanted list were found, for a total of 10. Those were among the 81 arrests made by the 70-officer unit — 20 for felonies, including drug trafficking, and 61 for misdemeanors such as disorderly conduct and gambling.

MOST WANTED: ARRESTED
   These people on the Cincinnati Violent Crimes Task Force Most Wanted list were arrested Thursday, bringing the number of people located to 10, of 42 people listed:
   • Kimberly Bowers of South Cumminsville, wanted for forgery.
   • John Cornett of English Woods, wanted for felony domestic violence.
   • Rodney Dyson of Lincoln Heights, wanted for felony theft.
   • Ebony Mincy of Clifton Heights, wanted for felony assault, other misdemeanors.
        “Eighty-one arrests last night,” Chief Tom Streicher said Thursday. “No incidents. No complaints. No use of force. That's critically important.”

        Anna Fillis, owner of the Alabama Fish Bar at Liberty and Race streets, said the task force was a relief.

        Before the 70 uniformed and undercover officers were deployed Wednesday, “We'd see a police car here and then one there,” she said. After: “Every five to 10 minutes a police cruiser was going by the whole night.”

        One man was arrested Thursday afternoon for interfering with police when task force members tried to arrest two men for drug trafficking at 13th and Walnut streets. Police said Richard Walker, 24, tried to urge the large crowd that had gathered that there were more of them than there were police.

        Chief Streicher formed the task force in response to the persistent and escalating violence spreading throughout the city. Since the April 9-12 protests and riots, 82 people have been hurt and 11 others killed by gunfire. Homicides are up dramatically, too — 28, compared with 18 this time in 2000.

        Chief Streicher met Thursday with leaders from community groups in Avondale, Walnut Hills, Over-the-Rhine and the West End. He said he wanted them to know what to expect when the task force comes to their neighborhoods.

        The officers, transferred to the unit from Operation Street Corner, the gang unit and other jobs, are working undercover and in high-profile uniform patrols.

        One resident, Jim Clingman, offered to print information about the task force and those who are wanted in the Walnut Hills newsletter. He also asked police to focus not only on drug sellers, but also on the buyers that come to the neighborhood.

        Chief Streicher said he'd do both, and asked the community leaders to post Most Wanted posters in businesses.
       

"Every 10 minutes'

        Henry Houston, a longtime Over-the-Rhine resident, said he spotted a cruiser going by his Main Street home “about every 10 minutes” since Wednesday.

        “There has been too much killing going on ... but this might change things,” the 86-year-old said. The task force “is scaring them away.”

        Many in the community said Wednesday evening seemed more peaceful and that the level of tension on the streets of the low-income historic neighborhood appeared to dissipate somewhat.

        But for Ronald Boles, 66, it doesn't matter.

        After living above his second-hand store — Ron's — on Race Street for more than 31 years, the April riots and subsequent jump in deadly violence have convinced him to move.

        “They should have done this a long time ago,” he said, referring to the new police effort. He is pessimistic about the community, saying the wounds left by lawlessness will ultimately prove fatal to the area.

        “It'll never be the same,” Mr. Boles said. “The money isn't coming back and I can't make a living here any more. It's gone.”

        Mr. Boles acknowledged the immediate impact of increased policing in his neighborhood. But he cautioned that drug dealers, whom he blames for most of the violence, are already adjusting their techniques to avoid police.

        “See that corner down there,” he said, pointing a couple of blocks south on Race Street. “It's usually crowded with drug dealers. Now only a couple of them hanging around. But now the problem is they just jump into a doorway when the police come by.”

        Alicia Ferguson sat in an empty Elder Street children's clothing store and took a different view. While business has suffered at the Kid's World store, she remains cautiously optimistic that more visible policing will help revive the neighborhood.

        “It's a very much needed boost to Over-the-Rhine,” said Ms. Ferguson, a sales person in the small store.

        The eight-year resident of East Clifton Avenue sees the stronger police presence as a chance for a better future.

        “I pray to God it does get better,” she said. “I'm optimistic. But changes have to start happening soon.”
       

Increase noticed

        Darryl Smith, a manager at The Diner on Sycamore, lives in nearby West End but has worked in Over-the-Rhine for nine years. He noticed the increased patrolling but said more needs to be done.

        “They should put in more police substations in the low-income apartment complexes and make sure there is an officer in there all the time,” said Mr. Smith. “Otherwise the drug dealers come right back out as soon as the cruiser turns around the corner.”

        David Miller, co-owner of Kaldi's Coffee House and Bookstore, said he, too, noticed not only the increased frequency of patrols but also a more “proactive” approach to law enforcement in Over-the-Rhine's Main Street entertainment district.

        “They were getting out of their cruisers and writing open-container tickets on people drinking in the street,” he said. “To have a show of police means so much to all the businesses here.

        “This is a temporary situation,” he said of the recent violence. “By the fall, which is our busiest time, we'll be back to normal.”

        But a few storefronts north on Main Street is businesswoman Sophie Andradis, who isn't so sure.

        For more than a half-century, she has owned the New York Dry Cleaners in Over-the-Rhine. She believed the neighborhood was on a solid rebound prior to the April riots. But since then, even increased policing isn't enough to convert her to optimism.

        “I can't tell you whether it'll change anything or not,” Ms. Andradis said. “But I do hope it changes for the better.

        “As long as there are those damn drugs in the city, nothing will change.”

       



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