Focus: slayings of black women

The mayor said he has 'zero tolerance' for violence perpetrated against women.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two city women have asked to speak before city council today to call attention to the homicide rate among black women.
Those seeking to speak are Doshia Banks of Idlewood Avenue and Jacqueline Taylor of Liberty Road.
"Nothing has been done. How long is long enough to wait?" Banks asked in an interview, adding that black women make up a disproportionate share of Youngstown's homicide victims.
Banks, who addressed council on this matter a year ago, said a social worker is needed in the police department's crisis intervention unit. "We're asking council, the mayor and the police chief to do whatever it takes to get that social worker for that unit. That would help," she said.
Banks is a member of the Sheridan Block Watch and a volunteer with the Volunteer Advocacy Legal Unit (VALU) program, which helps domestic violence victims obtain protection orders.
Banks is also a member of Mayor George McKelvey's task force on violence against women, which has met six times since last fall and supported a city police department recommendation to hire the social worker full time to assist domestic violence victims.
"A social worker knows immediately who to call, so it takes stressors away from the police and makes the system more efficient," said Tammy King, associate professor and chairwoman of criminal justice at Youngstown State University.
King is co-chair of the 29-member task force with the Rev. Alfred Coward, assistant pastor of Mount Calvary Pentecostal Church. The task force includes prosecutors, police, clergy, social service agency leaders and university faculty.
Similarities: The task force has been looking for similarities in cause and manner of death among 107 black female homicide victims over a 13-year period in Youngstown.
King said the task force expects to issue its report and make the remainder of its recommendations later this month or early next month.
"Mayor McKelvey has zero tolerance for violence against women. Zero. So one homicide involving any female, black or white, is one too many for me," the mayor said, reiterating written comments he issued a year ago on the topic.
"I commend the speakers for sharing my commitment to effectively address the issue of violence against women in our community," the mayor said.
Mayor McKelvey said the number of black female homicide victims has declined significantly in the city in recent years.
Numbers: King's data show 11 black female homicide victims were recorded in the city in 1996, and that dropped to six each for 1997 and 1998 and two in 1999. "The murder rate in the nation is on a relatively steady decline," King observed.
The mayor sent The Vindicator police department figures showing four black female homicide victims in 1998 and two each in 1999, 2000 and so far in 2001.
The task force's mission is to identify trends and factors contributing to the rise and fall of violence against women, identify factors contributing to racial and ethnic disparities in such violence in Youngstown and recommend possible solutions and programs.

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