Saturday, January 19, 2002

Serious crime soars in city

Auto thefts up 52 percent in 2001

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Serious crime is on the rise in the city of Cincinnati — up 21 percent last year over 2000.

        New statistics from the Cincinnati Police Department show that other crimes followed the already documented huge jump in homicides — a 52 percent increase in auto theft, a nearly 30 percent jump in aggravated assaults, a 6 percent jump in rapes and a 35 percent rise in robberies.

        The numbers mean a violent crime occurred in the city every 2.3 hours last year, compared with every 2.9 hours the year before. Crimes against property happened every 21.5 minutes, more often than the every 25.6 minutes in 2000.

        Officials blame it, at least in part, on the usual suspects: drugs and gangs.

        “Part of it, I think you can attribute to the riots,” said Capt. Greg Snider, commander of District 1. “I think a lot of people felt empowered after that, like it was their time.”

        The statistics back up what crime experts across the country have been saying for months — that the decade of decreasing crime is over. They cite among their explanations: the economic downturn; the rising number of prison inmates being released, and the increase in numbers of teen-agers, a group prone to crime.

        An increase in homicides led the upswing in the late 1980s nationwide in violent crime, and also led its decrease starting in 1992.

        Cincinnati's homicides jumped by 52 percent in 2001, to 61 people killed. That's on par with increases such as 67 percent in Boston and about 60 percent in Phoenix, and marked the city's worst year for killings since 1987. Sixty-six were killed then, 24 of them by convicted serial killer Donald Harvey.

        Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher has outlined several initiatives his officers are using to try to curb some of the violence. Those include working with the FBI and other federal authorities to get more gun crimes prosecuted in the federal system, where stiffer penalties are available; and a database under way by the Criminal Investigations Section, which will track homicides in particular to look for trends in location, cause and other factors.

        He also recently decentralized the Violent Crimes Task Force, putting six-officer units to work in each district. It had been focused in Over-the-Rhine after the riots.

        The move, he said, should make the 35-member team more responsive to needs in specific neighborhoods.


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