Saturday, September 14, 2002

Violent week adds shooting

W. Chester reeling from recent crimes

By Jennifer Edwards,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — A drive-by shooting late Thursday was the latest incident in an unusually violent week in this booming suburb.

        No one was hurt in the 7:05 p.m. shooting at the intersection of Cincinnati-Dayton and East Crescentville roads, but a felonious assault warrant was issued Friday for Dante L. Nared, 22, of Springfield Township.

        Frederick Walton, 28, of Golf Manor, told West Chester police he argued with Mr. Nared earlier that day while the two worked at Bakery Craft on Allen Road. After work, the men were on their way to Queen City Softball Complex Inc. off Cincinnati-Dayton Road to fight.

        But Mr. Nared pulled alongside Mr. Walton as he prepared to turn west onto Crescentville and fired three shots, two that hit his black Cavalier, police said.

        While shootings are rare in West Chester, Thursday's incident was part of a week that

        saw a bank robbery and ensuing police chase, and an aggravated robbery outside an apartment complex building. At a different apartment complex, a car thief lunged at the car's owner with a knife after the owner confronted him. The car's owner then allegedly beat the robber so severely the robber was briefly hospitalized.

        Some people are calling for more police presence in neighborhoods, particularly in West Chester's apartment complexes.

        “We have got to get this under control,” Trustee Catherine Stoker said Friday. “We can't let it get worse.”

        Serious crime — such as robbery, assault and auto theft — rose 15 percent in West Chester between 2000 and 2001 and is estimated to rise 18 percent this year, police records show.

        In 2000, there were 1,441 serious crimes reported; in 2001, that jumped to 1,654. From January to August of this year, there have been 1,296 serious crimes reported and if it keeps pace, the township is on track to have 1,944 serious crimes reported this year.

        Officers have had a busy summer with 36 business break-ins between June 13 and Sept. 2. There also have been thefts here and in other suburbs of golf clubs and other valuables from garages and sheds, many left open by trusting neighbors.

        Monday's bank robbery was the second in less than two months, but the alleged robber was caught. Another robber was apprehended in July after West Chester's fire chief spotted him as he ran from the second bank he robbed that day.

        West Chester still is one of the lowest crime areas in the Tristate and Ohio, Police Chief John Bruce pointed out Friday. In 2000, the township, the third-largest in the state, was the third-lowest rated jurisdiction for crime in Ohio out of 16 other areas with populations between 40,000 and 60,000, according to the Department of Justice.

        West Chester's population doubled, to 54,895 in 2000, since 1980. “We are seeing an increase in violent crime and we want to keep it in perspective, but we also want to be realistic and look at these issues and see if we can identify trends,” Chief Bruce said. “We are going to address it in a multitude of fashions with several different tactics.”

        A key priority is hiring more police. Residents overwhelmingly passed a 2.5-mill police levy in 2001 to make five hires a year for the next five years to bring the township closer to the Midwest's average of 2.4 officers per 1,000 people.

        Seven officers were hired last month, but most were to fill openings left by retirements.

        The police department hopes to have 76 police officers by the end of the year. There are now 73 officers, Police Chief John Bruce said Friday. Next year, the force should have 81 officers.

        The police department also is switching its computer system so officers have the latest in technology and can quickly gather statistics and other data to help them do their jobs faster and better, he said.

        Chief Bruce attributed the recent crime spurt in part to the township's tremendous residential and business growth. But he said it's too soon to predict any trends.

        “I don't want to think that this is West Chester coming of age,” Chief Bruce said. “I just think that West Chester is a microcosm of the world.”

        Early Tuesday, three people were robbed at gunpoint as they left an apartment in the 5200 block of Aster Park Drive in the Meadow Ridge complex. The gunman wore a black ski mask, fled with their wallets and cash, and remains on the loose.

        The same apartment complex was the scene of a rape Aug. 7. Two Forest Park brothers have been charged with raping a woman, 18, during a party at her apartment.

        “I feel like I live on Vine Street,” said Lorna Hance, 40, who was born and raised in West Chester and chose to raise her three sons here because of the township's reputation as a safe community with excellent schools.

        Meadow Ridge's manager asked a reporter to leave the complex Friday and referred comment to officials at the Louisiana corporation that owns it. But officials at Standard Enterprises, Inc., in Monroe, La., also refused comment Friday.


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