Growing killings linked to jail issue
A byproduct of a gun reduction program was a full jail, a police lieutenant said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two summers ago, the city recorded one homicide during the Gun Reduction Interdiction Project.
The time span was between late June and early September 2003.
During the same 10-week period in 2002, the city had 10 homicides and, over the previous 10 years, an average of seven during that time.
This year, from late June through last week, the city had recorded nine homicides. There have been 23 murders so far this year, one more than for all of 2004.
For all of 2003, the city had 19 homicides.
Lt. Robin Lees said it appears the city has returned to "pre-GRIP days." He said the byproduct of GRIP, which had extra law enforcement on the streets with a zero tolerance approach, was a full jail.
The jail, in fact, was beyond capacity in the fall of 2003, and the result was an inmates' class-action federal lawsuit. The jail, which can hold 564 inmates, is now restricted to 296 inmates because of a lack of funds.
Lees said the summer of 2003 saw nearly 350 GRIP arrests on charges that ranged from murder, sex offenses and felonious assault to driving under suspension and weapons and drug offenses. Roughly 50 more, about half of which were loud music violators, received summonses in lieu of arrest.
The law enforcement presence is there this summer, too, but the jail can't hold those arrested, Lee said. His belief is that crime, including violent crime, drops when more people are in jail.
Lees said when the jail holds low grade felons, they can't graduate to murder and intended victims in jail who may have welshed on drug debt are not on the streets to get killed.
In 2003, Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. said GRIP disrupted the criminal element in town. "They couldn't ride through the city without looking over their shoulder" he said at the time.
Local, state and federal officials who participated in GRIP credited it for reducing not only the homicide rate but crime overall.