YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — After one of the most violent years since the 1990s, the city of Youngstown saw a dramatic decrease in violence in 2022.
For the year, Youngstown had 73 total shootings, 21 of them fatal, which was a little less than half of 2021’s total of 139 shootings, including all 31 of the city’s homicides that year. Overall, Youngstown had 22 homicides in 2022.
That year, 2021, was the second straight year the city saw a dramatic increase in violence, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, when 98 people were shot, including 27 of 28 homicide victims.
That was an increase of 40 shootings from 2019.
Police Chief Carl Davis credited part of the downturn with the extra patrols in areas of the city known for high crime by the Neighborhood Response Unit, a unit he formed in 2021 of officers who are known for finding guns while on patrol.
At times, those patrols are augmented by members of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who teamed with the city two years in a row to add troopers to do special patrols in those areas as well.
Davis, a deeply religious man, also credited the downturn to the Stop The Violence Movement, which is led by a group of churches in the city that has held marches in neighborhoods decrying gun violence while also offering their services to help counsel those who may be involved in violence or thinking of taking part in violence.
Davis said the marches helped to foster goodwill between residents in those neighborhoods, and police have gotten a lot more cooperation from people in those neighborhoods.
“It built trust and people started coming forward,” Davis said.
While they are coming forward in the neighborhoods, Chief of Detectives Capt. Jason Simon said the biggest obstacle detectives face in investigations is getting cooperation from witnesses.
Simon said from his end, most of the city’s homicides are connected in some way to the drug trade, so the work the NRU does in focusing on high-crime neighborhoods where there is also a lot of drug activity has also helped to reduce violence because those people are not as apt to operate in the open in those neighborhoods.
Simon also said the work of the Community Initiative To Reduce Violence, headed up by Guy Burney, has also made an impact because Burney is able to mediate disputes before they escalate into violence.
“It does play a role in violent crime reduction,” Simon said.
Burney said one of the keys to his work in 2022 was the ability to meet people in person in order to mediate disputes. He said personal meetings were disrupted by the pandemic which made it harder to make connections to intervene in disputes that could escalate into violence.
Burney said the main thing he tries to impress on people is that violence is a choice and that people need to choose something else to resolve a conflict instead of violence, especially because of the repercussions it can have not just on those feuding, but on their family and community members as well.
Lt. Gerard Slattery, head of the NRU as well as the vice squad, said his patrols try to focus on areas of the city that have a lot of gun crime. The patrols, including the ones augmented by the state patrol and other agencies, are staffed based on data compiled by the police department on where gunfire is breaking out.
For the year, Youngstown had 103 arrests for gun offenses, down from 147 in 2021. But in 2022, police had to deal with a change in the state’s gun laws which allowed people over 21 to carry a loaded gun in their car. Those under 21 could be charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle.
In 2021, police charged 95 people with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle and 29 had the same charge before the new law went into effect June 14. After the new law went into effect, police made just 13 arrests for improper handling, the majority of the people under 21.
In 2022, police arrested 50 people for the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, up 9 from 2021, when 41 people were arrested for that charge.
Rounding out the stats in 2022 were three arrests for carrying a concealed weapon. Police made 11 of those arrests in 2021.
Slattery said there were several traffic stops where people were stopped with guns who would have been charged before the change in the state law, but they were no longer eligible to be arrested for that charge now.
Of the city’s 73 shootings in 2022, 47 of them, including 11 homicides, took place on the South Side.
From 2018-2022, Youngstown had a total of 434 shootings, an average of 86.8 shootings per year.
Among those shootings are 116 homicides, an average of 23.2 per year.