Thursday, February 27, 2003

City homicides outpacing 2002


13 deaths so far in '03, but cases solved remains low

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A Walnut Hills senior citizen fires at an intruder at 2:30 a.m.

A 13-year-old boy, claiming he was sick of being bullied, shoots a 15-year-old in North Fairmount.

A 17-year-old mother, holding her child, is caught in the middle of a West End gun battle.

INFOGRAPHIC
13 homicides in the city in 2003
These are cases helping drive a 117 percent increase in the number of Cincinnati homicides so far this year, compared with the same period in 2002, when six people were killed. And last year's 65 slayings were a 15-year high.

While many murders in 2001 and 2002 were driven by drugs, the motives for this year's killings also include jealousy and mistaken identity, police said. That's probably the only good news in the alarming trend: Those other motives generally make witnesses easier to come by and the crimes easier to figure out.

"You can get the crimes of passion, the crimes of jealousy," said Lt. Roger Wolf, homicide supervisor. "Those are very solvable. But you get these drug ones, and they're very difficult to close."

Detectives have made arrests in six of the 2003 killings. A seventh was the Feb. 9 fatal police shooting in Northside, the first time a Cincinnati officer killed someone since November 2001. That adds up to a closure rate of more than 50 percent.

The 13th victim, Terrence Halsey, 43, was found Tuesday morning behind a garage in Avondale. His body was found just hours after police arrested the suspect in the 12th killing the day before.

Police have witnesses who are willing to help in the 12th killing, which left 18-year-old Christopher Wynn dead Monday in an Over-the-Rhine apartment. Officers said the dispute might have been over a woman.

They did not have many leads in Halsey's death.

"I'm at the point right now where I'll beg for anything I can get," Wolf said of tips.

All but one of the victims was African-American, fitting with national data that black people are six times more likely to be victims of murder than white people, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The 2003 victims ranged in age from 15 to 50. All but two were male. They included:

• Randall Montgomery, 44, shot in Walnut Hills on Feb. 13 as he arrived at a friend's house. The woman's elderly mother mistakenly thought he was an intruder. She faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

• Arick Hudson, 15, shot Feb. 20 in North Fairmount by a 13-year-old. The accused boy's family said he fired because Hudson and others bullied him.

• A 17-year-old mother shot Jan. 8 in the West End while riding in a car with a man police say had been having an ongoing gun battle with another man. The shooter was aiming at the driver, but hit Janeen Roseberry instead.

"Murder is an extremely difficult crime to prevent," said Capt. Robert Snow, an Indianapolis homicide supervisor who has written many books on killings. "Take domestic ones - unless you find people with domestic violence charges and assign an officer to their house, you're not going to prevent it."

Indianapolis' homicide rate has declined every year since Snow took over the unit four years ago - from 130 when he got the job to 83 last year. But he cautioned against attributing any declines to new programs or changes in policy.

"Because the numbers are going to go up again," Snow said. "They always do."

The increase in killings last year prompted one murder victim's mother to try to see what citizens could do to help police. Lucy Logan's son, Nolan, was slain March 11, 2002, in his Madisonville apartment. Police have no new leads.

Her group, Who's Killing Our Kids? is putting together a video showing the faces of victims whose killings remain unsolved. She said Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis has agreed to let it be shown in the jail.

"I just figure there's got to be people there who might know something," Logan said. "As the relatives of these victims, we're just trying to keep these crimes out there in the public eye."

Members of the Peace Down the Way coalition are concerned about the growing number of killings, said Juleana Frierson, chief of staff of the Black United Front. The coalition, a group of more than 60 organizations, will meet next week to finish some more of its anti-violence plans. Last week, members passed out fliers outside a rap concert, quoting slain rapper Tupac Shakur in their pleas for a moratorium on violence.

"If the same number of white kids had been killed, then we'd probably have a state of emergency," Frierson said. "This is a state of emergency in the black community."

Capt. James Whalen is the new commander of District 1, where four of the 2003 homicides have happened. He said he thinks the rate of killings related to drugs and other nondomestic issues will decline if officers continue to be more proactive. Chief Tom Streicher has been telling officers he wants more aggressive enforcement.

"I really think it's on the front end, with the drugs and the people who are walking around with guns," Whalen said. "Their arrogance level, like the chief says, is too high. That's the stuff we can make a dent in."

Though overall arrests in the city were down by almost 4 percent in January compared with January 2002, arrests for serious crime were up by 14 percent to 468, compared with 410 in January last year.

"Some of the kinds we've been seeing are more solvable," Whalen said. "But they're also less preventable."

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com




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