Sunday, February 9, 2003

116 arrested in police sweep


Charges range from murder to jaywalking

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati police made 116 arrests in Avondale, Northside, Over-the-Rhine, and Westwood during a secret 48-hour sweep that ended Saturday.

The sweep began at a Thursday meeting at the department's Spinney Field training facility, and continued with two overnight shifts on Thursday and Friday nights.

Police commanders showed about 60 officers detailed crime maps and photos of known problem areas and wanted offenders.

The team also included FBI and U.S. Secret Service agents, state liquor control officers and probation and parole officers. They staked out known drug trafficking corners, problem liquor establishments and crack houses.

The arrests covered offenses ranging from murder to jaywalking.

"We've found that drug dealers often don't follow the rules of only crossing the street at crosswalks," said Police Capt. Vince Demasi, who headed the two-day "strike force."

Underlying Saturday's news of the arrests was a subtle message by police that they had returned to aggressive policing in the neighborhoods following reports that arrests have dropped 30 percent since 2000.

The so-called slowdown followed the police shooting of an unarmed, fleeing suspect in Over-the-Rhine in April 2001, and the subsequent riots and a federal investigation of the Cincinnati Police Department.

Since then, police efforts have focused on high-profile task forces to attack violent crime, robberies and other specific crime problems. Most of those efforts have been centered on Over-the-Rhine and the West End, where police went on a week-long sweep after suspects stabbed an undercover officer on Central Parkway a month ago.

Demasi said the latest sweep differs from previous efforts in that police are targeting more crimes, involving more agencies and expanding their reach to more neighborhoods.

In short, he said, it's the beginning of community problem-oriented policing, or CPOP, a buzzword for the new strategy of involving citizens in helping to identify and resolve problem areas. That strategy was supposed to be fully implemented by September 2002, but has been slow to gain acceptance inside and outside the department.

The sweep was a rare example of using officers from the Investigations Bureau - which includes vice and homicide detectives, for example - working with patrol officers on neighborhood problems, said Demasi, who commands the Investigations Bureau.

"It's not the easiest thing to do to get some of your older, more experienced detective types to try some new things," he said.

"We're trying traditional methods and nontraditional methods. This is not a task force. This is not a shot-in-the-dark kind of approach. It's a culture change."

Saturday's disclosure of the neighborhood sweeps came the day after the Cincinnati Police Department released crime statistics showing that serious crime fell and arrests rose in January.

Mayor Charlie Luken, who has identified crime reduction as the city's No. 1 priority in 2003, applauded both announcements but stopped far short of declaring victory.

"We have too many drugs, too much violence, and we have a log way to go toward resolving that," Luken said. "But we are nicking significantly in the right direction."

Fulton Jefferson Jr., vice president of the Avondale Community Council, said he's already noticed a difference.

"Our hot spot numbers have come down dramatically. It's a lot safer in Avondale," he said. "We have a lot more hot spots to go. We have a lot of problems. A lot of drug problems. Our senior citizens are afraid to go out on the street."

Demasi said there would be similar sweeps of neighborhood hot spots in the future, but declined to say when or where.

"Here's what I will tell you: We will be back," he said.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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