Friday, August 17, 2001

Police ponder new methods as violence rises

By Jane Prendergast and Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Another violent night in the Tristate left police on both sides of the Ohio River investigating shootings that killed one man, hurt another and involved officers in a shot-filled chase.

        This outbreak came as Cincinnati's Violent Crimes Task Force started its fourth week. Formed to battle persistent shootings and other violence, the 70-officer unit continues its undercover drug investigations and extra uniformed patrols.

        Among its work so far: 434 arrests, 139 of them for drugs; 32 curfew violators; 134 grams of crack and 22,251 grams of marijuana confiscated; and six guns and 11 vehicles recovered. Officers have found 41 of their 97 Most Wanted suspects.

        That tally comes with no serious injuries to officers or suspects, Chief Tom Streicher said Thursday, and without any significant use of force.

        He repeatedly stressed there's no quick, “light-switch” fix to combating the extraordinary crime that has developed since the April riots. He predicted another “dramatic influence” in fighting the violence will come when the results of some continuing undercover investigations are revealed later.

        But he also has directed leaders of each of the five Cincinnati police districts to start planning for the second phase of the division's anti-violence plan — the part where officers will be more involved with community leaders and neighborhood residents.

        He's still talking with Buddy LaRosa about starting a Police Athletic League, and he said he has talked with city recreation officials about more neighborhood programs.

        “We have to establish the stability back in these neighborhoods,” the chief said, “be it through block watches, be it through foot patrols, just different programs, whatever we think will work in a particular neighborhood.”

        Since the April protests and riots, at least 90 people have been hurt and 16 killed in shootings.

        The latest incidents:

        • Rico Alexander Coleman of Over-the-Rhine died from a shotgun blast to his head about 1 a.m. Thursday. He was found lying on Vine Street near McMicken Avenue. He was involved in an argument before he was shot, police said.

        Mr. Coleman was indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury in April for possession of cocaine. He also served more than a year in an Ohio state prison facility after being found guilty of failure to comply.

        • Wednesday, a shooting in the 300 block of Rockdale Avenue in Avondale erupted about 11:25 p.m. after an argument. Lavoris Hightower, of the 2000 block of Williamsburg Avenue, was shot in the thigh. He was treated at a hospital and released.

        Police described the suspected shooter as black, age 19 or 20, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, and wearing a white T-shirt pulled over his head. He was last seen running through the rear of 3500 Burnet Ave. toward Burnet and Rockdale avenues.

        • Northern Kentucky officers chased Trina Marie Gay, 31, of Avondale, through three cities before stopping her in Covington. Three officers fired multiple shots at her after police said she tried to hit a Park Hills policeman with her car. Ms. Gay, who also goes by the last name of Hart, was charged with fleeing, wanton endangerment, attempted murder, and possession of cocaine and marijuana.

        During the chase, Ms. Gay allegedly almost struck a pedestrian and several parked vehicles on Covington's west side, then forced two police officers to leap out of the way for fear of being hit by her car.

        “In law enforcement work, we confront violence all the time,” said Lt. Col. Jim Liles, spokesman for the Covington Police Department. “Another shooting could happen again tonight, or tomorrow. Shootings can happen in any community, especially when drugs are involved.

        “And (drugs are) a problem all over.”


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