Sunday, January 19, 2003

Crime story


'Put the razor-wire back in our laws'

map

Knock, knock. Mason, Indian Hill, Hyde Park and Hamilton, are you home? Hello? Hello? Milford, Montgomery, Fairfield, Delhi, West Chester, Anderson and Cheviot, are you listening?

Cincinnati is in trouble. And this is what it looks like.

"Everywhere you looked, drugs were being sold. Every drug imaginable."

"There were as many as 25 young men in one location. They're dangerous and confrontational. There's fighting, shootings and sometimes murder. The residents are often terrified of crossing the dealers' boundaries and won't let their children play outside."

"They told my 10-year old daughter, `We're gonna kill your dog.'"

"My son bought drugs from them. He died of a heroin overdose."

"I watched the young men get into cars and then get out with fistfuls of money."

"I see them on the corner at 6 a.m. and at 10 p.m. They wake me up at 2 a.m. with profanity. I see a hundred drug deals a day."

These are cries for help from ordinary people who are watching drug-crime cancer kill their neighborhoods. They came from Northside, Madisonville, Walnut Hills, Bond Hill, Mount Auburn, Over-the-Rhine, Mount Washington and College Hill - some of Cincinnati's oldest neighborhoods.

They lined up to tell their stories at a Dec. 10 Law and Public Safety Committee hearing on a loitering ordinance to help bust pushers. For hours, they vented pain, frustration, grief, fear and disbelief that their peaceful world has been invaded. Emotions were drawn bowstring tight with anger. Voices shook with tears of frustration and despair.

Gina Strohm brought along bullets she dug out of a building her family owns. "I am appalled at the inaction," she said.

Bob Pickford of Findlay Market told about a man who was beaten to death in the middle of the street at 11 a.m., "in full view of the market and our customers."

Hal McKinney of Northside said property values are sinking like homeowners' hopes. One house dropped from $90,000 to $43,000. Another fell from $80,000 to $30,000. "Crack rats" have shot at him and threatened to torch his home. "Two years ago, I was one of those people who didn't care," he says. "I had no concept."

Amos Robinson of College Hill wants someone to stop the young "drug boys in training," who work for dealers running cash and crack.

Taylor Jameson is ready to give up on her hair salon in Northside. "There's no escape. I'm fighting for my life and my rights to lead a happy, normal life."

Sharon Koehler of Northside said a backlash against "criminals and terrorists" has been simmering for a long time. "It has to stop. I refuse to back down. It's high time we put the razor wire back into our laws. Take the handcuffs off the police and put them back on the criminals."

City Hall is finally getting a clue. Maybe. The cops are ramping up their drug busts, the mayor wants tougher sentencing and some council members are talking tough about crime after two years of politically correct pandering to protesters. For nearly two years, the city has responded to riots and lawlessness not with law and order, but by blaming the cops. Our city was held hostage to a handful of activists who cried "racism" to excuse criminals - and we reaped a record harvest of corpses and crime.

If Cincinnati is waking up, Dec. 10 was the alarm clock. But the battle is just beginning. And it's not just for Northside or Madisonville. This is everyone's fight to save the city - or there will be nobody home when it's your turn to call for help.

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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