YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown police will begin beefing up patrols to respond to a rash of shootings this year that has led to 13 people being shot this month, one of them fatally.
Mayor Jamael Tito Brown also said before a call in for the Community Initiative To Reduce Violence (CIRV) program Thursday that the city also wants to revive special details with other agencies that help to crack down on gun violence.
During the call in itself, police Chief Robin Lees also said the extra patrols will be out to respond to the uptick in violence. Earlier this week, he said social distancing guidelines and other precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic have handicapped police a bit, but he said they will no longer hamper his department.
“Because of COVID-19, we have been off our game a bit, but not anymore,” Lees said.
This year, unofficially, at least 84 people have been shot in the city, 23 of those fatally. Gunfire calls, especially on the South Side, are routine, especially in the late and early morning hours.
This month alone, police have seen 24 shootings that have wounded 12 and killed one, a man who was found shot to death early Friday morning on East Evergreen Avenue. His identity has still not been released.
CIRV is a program in which people, mostly young men who have been in trouble with the law, are given a chance to have access to services to help them find a job, battle addiction or other social services.
At the call in, representatives from those agencies are available but so were members of law enforcement, who told the five young men who were in attendance the perils of what would happen if they continued a life of crime.
Guy Burney, the CIRV director who is in the neighborhoods frequently, said much of the recent violence is being driven by the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, which has hurt the local economy.
Burney said in trying times, people who are dealing with employment and other issues tied to making a living and surviving are stressed to the breaking point and sometimes turn to violence as a way to settle disputes.
Burney said those people need to learn how to work out differences without resorting to violence, which he stressed is unacceptable.
“The mental health of our community is being strained,” Burney said.
Burney said uncertainty and violence affect the entire community because even people who do not have to worry economically have to worry about safety.
“Everyone wants to be safe,” Burney said.
Burney said people and resources need to be brought into the neighborhoods to help people get through these times, not just economically, but also to help them learn how to settle differences without resorting to violence.
Mayor Brown said he is thinking of setting up a hotline that will go to either his office or the CIRV office where citizens can voice concerns about violence in their neighborhoods anonymously.
People want to help, but often they are scared, Brown said.
Brown said he especially wants to start the patrols with state and federal law enforcement again that look for guns and gun offenders. Often, those patrols are in areas known for gunfire calls. Lees credited them last year with a reduction in the city’s homicide rate from 28 in 2018 to 20 in 2019. The city currently has 23 homicides.
Brown said he will be trying to secure state and federal funding for more anti-gun efforts.
“We have to get these guns off the streets,” Lees said.
Five men participated in the call in, and they were urged to take advantage of the program and use the services offered to them so they could change their lives around.
“You young men have an opportunity to change the course of your life,” Judge Carla Baldwin said.
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