YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The Youngstown police department unveiled a new five-officer unit Friday that will focus on crime problems in specific neighborhoods.
The Neighborhood Response Unit, which was unveiled at a press conference in the police department Roll Call Room, will begin operations Monday and will work under the direct supervision of Police Chief Carl Davis.
The members of the unit, all veteran patrol officers, will concentrate on specific neighborhoods that see high levels of crime and violence.
One of the things the unit will do, besides patrolling, is taking the time to know residents in the specific neighborhoods, to learn more about problems and to gain their trust, said Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.
“I don’t want to just go into the neighborhoods for calls,” Brown said.
Members of the unit are officers Carlo Eggleston Jr. and Amir Kahn, who regularly patrol a south side beat on midnight turn; officers Fred Herdman and Luis Villaplana, who patrol south side beats on afternoon turn; and Jacob Short and his police dog Spawn. Short typically works midnights.
Staff Inspector Lt. Brian Butler, who took part in selecting the officers for the unit, said they were all chosen “because of their ability to get firearms off the streets.”
Eggleston and Khan often work as a two-man car and have made several gun arrests this year. On Thursday, Villaplana took part in a traffic stop on the south side where police found four guns and arrested three people on weapons charges.
Davis will rely on data compiled by the department on where gun violence and gun crimes take place in deciding where to deploy the unit. Butler said since most of those crimes take place in the evening or early morning hours, he expects the officers to also work those hours.
As of Friday, 29 people have been wounded in the city, seven fatally, since the start of the year. Of those people wounded, 19 of them, including five of the city’s homicide victims, were shot on the south side and five of the city’s seven homicide victims were also killed on the south side.
Earlier this month, the department began rotating officers who work in special units to work two-week rotations in the Patrol Division. Those officers will make up for the officers who were transferred from patrol to the NRU.
Because the members of the NRU will not be answering calls, they will be free to spend as much time as they need in a specific neighborhood, Davis said.
“We’ll be targeting specific neighborhood complaints,” Davis said. “We want to disrupt street level criminal activity.”
“They will be able to focus on crime as it’s happening,” Butler added.
The new unit will at times partner with the Community Police Unit, which was formed by former Chief Robin Lees. In the CPU, one officer was assigned to each of the city’s seven wards.
However, the ranks were reduced in 2019 when some members of the unit were rotated back to the Patrol Division because of a shortage of officers there.
Three officers have been put back on CPU duty. The new officers will join that unit on June 21, which will bring it back to its full strength of seven officers, one for each of the wards.
The CPU officers, while addressing crime concerns in the wards, also address quality of life issues such as blight, which before often tied up a regular patrol officer who would be called to address a blight complaint. They also attend block watch meetings and other functions in their specific ward.
The city this year is also taking part in Operation Steel Penguin, where special patrols and home visits of people on parole are made to look for gun offenders who still have guns.
Taking part in Operation Steel Penguin is the city police department; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; the state Adult Parole Authority; the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Patrol.
Already this week, the program has seen the arrest or detention of five people and has recovered six guns.
The department also took part in the program in 2019.