Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Queen City Pride

Message to hoods and City Hall


When someone asks where I'm from, I say: Cincinnati.

With pride.

But also with concern.

I'm concerned about what is happening to my hometown. There's a lot of that going around.

Concerned citizens in the West End are fed up with the violence that rules their streets, ruins lives and jeopardizes their children's future.

They want to hire a private police force to patrol the neighborhood. The mission for the rent-a-cops who would walk the streets and look nothing like Barney Fife would be: Rid the West End of drug-dealing scum. Help flush it down the toilet. Act now before the dealers and their fellow two-legged vermin take everyone in the neighborhood down the drain with them.

Concerned citizens in Northside are so fed up they've taken action into their own hands. Over the weekend, they parked their cars at a busy intersection to prevent dope peddlers from doing business with drive-through customers.

Concerned downtown business owners are keeping an eye on the West End and Northside. If those neighborhoods' initiatives work, business owners victimized by drug-craving crooks might formulate their own crime-fighting plan.

Drug plague

In the last 14 months, Jon Diebold's downtown restaurant, Washington Platform, has been broken into seven times. They're mostly smash and grab jobs. Window smashed. Booze bottles grabbed.

Washington Platform's neighbors have complained to Jon about a series of car break-ins and computer thefts.

"I'm really fed up," Jon said. "People have been waiting for the knight in white armor to ride in and take care of these problems. That doesn't seem like it's going to happen.

"So, there's been a step-up of people taking control."

Everyone has a right to be concerned. Drug-fueled crime is a cancer on Cincinnati.

Drug arrests in the city soared to 7,968 in 2002. That's a 28 percent increase over 2001.

You used to hear about drug-related crime spurring community action in big gritty towns with bad reputations. But not here, not in river city.

In Cincinnati, the police took care of crime. Concerned citizens could be concerned about other things. Maintaining their houses. Washing their cars. Making sure their kids got a good education at schools that were in good repair.

In short, minding their own business.

No more.

No confidence

These examples of concern and community action in the West End, downtown and Northside send a clear message to the city's criminal element and to City Hall.

To the criminals, the message is: We're taking back our neighborhood, the place we call home. It's where we belong. And lowlifes don't.

To City Hall, the message is a vote of no-confidence in local government and the police.

For whatever reason, the people in Cincinnati's neighborhoods don't trust city government to solve their problems. Maybe that's because of a perceived incompetence or feelings of indifference generated by City Council's track record of spending millions on struggling downtown businesses while the neighborhoods deteriorate.

Maybe they see a hamstrung police department too busy serving and protecting its own interests in the wake of a slew of post-riot investigations.

This lack of trust turns the neighborhoods inward. They look to themselves for solutions.

They realize they have the power to make a difference. And the source of that power starts with a fierce sense of pride in where you live and work.

Call Cliff Radel at 768-837; or e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.

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