Wednesday, August 08, 2001

Police task force showing results

Crackdown on violence in city enters 3rd week

By Jane Prendergast and Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The police task force fighting Cincinnati's persistent violence boasts this two-week report card:

        • 27 Most Wanted people found.

        • 97 drug arrests — and 22,430 grams of marijuana and 193 grams of crack cocaine off the streets.

        • Tips to the Crime Stoppers hot line more than doubled.

        The Violent Crimes Task Force starts its third week today. Chief Tom Streicher — who formed the 70-member team of undercover and patrol officers to battle the dramatic increase in shootings and crime since the April riots — said Tuesday he's satisfied with results.

        “I think we're starting to see a pretty good reduction,” Chief Streicher said. “But the bad guys wait to see if there's going to be consistency. So we have to show that.”

        Residents and people who work in Over-the-Rhine, the neighborhood targeted for most task-force activity so far, generally welcome the extra enforcement. But they also wonder how long it will continue, and they want to know what else the city is going to offer.

        Brother Jerry Dubose, who helps run The Lord's Gym at Walnut and Liberty streets, told this story: “At one time, I walked down Vine Street and watched a group pull a table into the street and just stand there, just for the fun of it, like they were saying, "Who's gonna stop us?'

        “You don't see that kind of thing as much anymore,” he added. “It's like now (criminals) see they're getting punched back, and it's not so fun anymore now that the police are back.”

        Over-the-Rhine has been the site of many of the 72 shooting incidents in the city since the April 9-12 protests and riots. In those, at least 86 people have been hurt and 14 killed.

        In the most recent incident, a 20-year-old man was shot in the buttocks and ankle around midnight Monday on McHenry Avenue in Westwood by someone he identified. Police have not made an arrest.

        Chief Streicher said some changes may be coming to task-force operations. Some of the attention might move beyond Over-the-Rhine, and he told Capt. Mike Bolte to consider a juvenile curfew sweep if he thinks one might help a particular neighborhood's crime problems.        

Drug busts

        High-visibility cruisers aren't the only police tactic building respect in Over-the-Rhine, said Ronald Hummons, a 28-year-old who grew up on 13th Street.

        So are the undercover drug busts, he said.

        The police division says task-force members have made 97 drug arrests in the two weeks and confiscated large quantities of crack, pot, heroin and powder cocaine.

        In announcing the task force July 25, Chief Streicher released the names and photos of 42 Most Wanted people, saying that getting them off the streets would go a long way toward reducing the violence in the city.

        Of the 26 Most Wanted people arrested since then, 14 remain in jail, nine were released after posting bonds, and the charges against three others were tossed out by a grand jury. One other man was found dead in the county morgue.

        The first list included some wanted on nonviolent offenses such as theft. When Crime Stoppers specialists oversaw the 55 additions to the list last week, they checked all for current charges involving violence or histories of violence.

        Chief Streicher dismissed any concern about the release rate of the arrestees.

        “We're interviewing these people and getting information about other incidents,” he said. “That's how policing works in a lot of cases.”

        Those still in jail are being held in lieu of bonds ranging from $5,000 to $500,000.

        Tony Lee, 24, of South Fairmount, holds the high-bond record — two $250,000 bonds. When he was arrested in Westwood on July 31, police said they found more than 100 grams of crack in his trunk. To get out of jail to await trial, he'd have to pay Hamilton County $500,000 — in cash.

        Other Most Wanted arrestees, such as Kareem Williams, 29, of Corryville, would have to pay only $500 — 10 percent of a $5,000 bond. Mr. Williams was arrested Monday on a warrant for robbery; he is accused of carjacking a woman July 4 in Avondale.

        Grand jurors tossed out theft charges against Vincent Birch, 20, of Over-the-Rhine, and Vicki Carpenter, 38, of the West End, and an aggravated robbery charge against Anthony Richardson, 33, of Bond Hill.        

        Chief Streicher said he did not know how much longer the task force would need to stay in business. He said he was particularly pleased by the more than doubling of anonymous calls to the Crime Stoppers' hot line, 352-3040.

        Officers took 250 calls from tipsters in July, compared with 100 to 110 in a more usual month.

       Enquirer reporter Kevin Aldridge contributed.


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