Saturday, September 01, 2001

Is Vine Street safer? Answers mixed

Police presence cooled hotbed of gunfire, violence after riots

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Eleven shooting incidents on 13 blocks of one street. In Cincinnati's surge of violence this summer, Vine Street has been the hot zone.

        It's a place where teens routinely hang out on corners, slow traffic and fight in the street. Four of 107 shooting incidents in the city since the April riots and un rest took place in the 1300 block of Vine in Over-the-Rhine.

        That's more than any other street in the city.

        Residents say they can only speculate why. Some say drugs; others, gang territory. And while some believe the violence affects them every day, others say it is slowly subsiding. Some doubt it ever will.

        There are more guns. People are scared. They're broke. And the tension since the riots has not subsided.

        Sometimes it seems as if it might snap like a rubber band.

        And sometimes it does.

        On July 20, 2-year-old Devonte Ross was shot in the chest during a running gun battle on Vine Street, across the street from Network Paging in Over-the-Rhine.

        Though it was after store hours, Ahmad Alsalah, one of three partners who owns the business, said sales now are down by half. The riots started the decline, but the continued shootings have made it worse, he says.

        “We're thinking of moving out of the area,” Mr. Alsalah said. “A lot of our customers are afraid.”

        Henry McDade, a 62-year-old who runs the Christian Church of the Living God in his apartment on Vine Street, has lived in Over-the-Rhine for about 10 years.

        “It doesn't seem possible,” he says of the violence. “Young people have got these guns and they will use them. They have to show themselves. They want to be

        big, appear older. If somebody promises you money and they don't pay up, you've got to go out and show people you'll get what's yours.”

        Despite a recent volunteer ef fort to spruce up the street and others in Over-the-Rhine with flower boxes, buildings remain abandoned. Trash piles up on curbsides, and bullet holes in windows serve as reminders that the street is often unsafe.

        Larry Ashford, who manages Smitty's store, says in the last few weeks things have started getting better. There have been no problems at his store.

        “At night, the police have done a hell of a job breaking them up,” he says. “When the police came back on the job, it really quieted.”


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