Tuesday, July 31, 2001

City panel seeks fix in Boston




By Kevin Aldridge and Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A six-member team from Cincinnati Community Action Now returned from Boston Monday with more than a model for how to reduce black-on-black crime and improve police-community relations. It came back with hope.

        The group visited the National Ten-Point Leadership Foundation, a non-profit based in Boston that since 1992 has gained national attention for reducing crime and easing tensions between blacks and police.

NEXT STEPS
  Cincinnati Community Action Now leaders will give Mayor Charlie Luken a briefing on their findings today. The panel also hopes to begin discussing what aspects of the Boston program can be implemented in Cincinnati at the commission's police and justice system action team meeting Wednesday.
        CAN leaders wanted to determine whether aspects of the Boston program could be duplicated in Cincinnati to help counter the recent rash of shootings and street violence.

        Led by CAN co-chairman the Rev. Damon Lynch III, the contingent toured the city, met with its mayor and police superintendent (the equivalent to Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher), three gang unit officers and the Rev. Eugene Rivers, director of the program.

        “The two key components for Boston's turnaround were leadership and accountability,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said Monday from Boston. “The leadership of Cincinnati is going to have to come together and take ownership of these issues and everyone needs to be held accountable.”

        In 1991, Boston experienced more than 150 homicides — mostly of young black males — and 1,100 gunshot injuries. By 1997, however, the city reduced firearm incidents by 60 percent and had gone 2 1/2 years without a juvenile homicide. In 2001, there have been 18 homicides where the victims are 24 and under.

        Boston, with a population of 589,141, has 2,100 sworn police officers, about double the size of Cincinnati's force. “I'm extremely impressed with what I've seen today,” said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen. “This is an incredible success story as far as reducing crime.”

        The Rev. Mr. Rivers, who plans to visit Cincinnati next month, said the Boston model can be replicated, but African-American leaders — particularly clergy — must first acknowledge the reality of black-on-black crime along with the issue of police brutality. He said black leaders cannot denounce white officers killing black men yet say nothing about black-on-black violence.

        “We can take the lesson that Rev. Rivers preaches: There has to be a realization (within the community) that the police are not the problem, and it makes sense for communities to work with the police,” Mr. Allen said. “Now, having said that, (this kind of success also) requires certain actions on the part of the police — treating people with respect and concern.”

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch said winning the war against violence is all about being on the streets. He said more clergy need to walk the neighborhoods, engage the gangs and pull kids out of the violence. Simply denouncing it is not enough.

        “The church has sometimes been lax in doing that,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “If our streets have become unsafe it is because we have allowed it to happen.”

       



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