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DOWNTOWN YOUNGSTOWN Candidates voice concerns on crime



Published: Thu, August 18, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



One mayoral candidate wants the DEA to come to the city.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Mayoral candidate Jay Williams wrote the U.S. attorney for Ohio's Northern District urging advice and assistance in reducing the city's homicide rate.

From late June to Wednesday, the city recorded 10 homicides. There have been 24 murders so far this year; there were 22 recorded for all of 2004.

In 2003, the city had 19 homicides. But between late June and early September 2003, there was one homicide. That was when the Gun Reduction Interdiction Project, developed by U.S. Attorney Greg White, was in Youngstown. The project increased the number of law enforcement officials -- local, state and federal -- on city streets with a zero-tolerance approach.

What works

In his letter to White, Williams wrote that he realizes the funding for GRIP was discontinued.

"Yet, I feel strongly that when something is so successful, we cannot afford to abandon a program that works, especially when it involves an issue of such importance," wrote Williams, an independent candidate for Youngstown mayor.

Williams asked White if an interim program, similar but smaller than GRIP, could be implemented in Youngstown if city money was available.

A scaled-down version of the program is better than none at all, he wrote.

The proposal is among a multilayer anti-crime policy Williams released Wednesday.

He wants to strengthen partnerships with local law enforcement agencies; adequately train, equip and fund block watches; pursue a policy of highly visible and proactive community policing; and work to change the "culture of acceptance" among certain city residents.

There are five other candidates running in November for mayor.

Hagan's plan

State Sen. Robert F. Hagan, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said he plans to release his complete anti-crime policy Friday.

But he gave significant insight into his proposal Wednesday.

Hagan said he is working with Mahoning County Sheriff Randall Wellington to put more city officers and deputy sheriffs on Youngstown streets to combat crime.

Hagan wants to hire more officers and break up some of Youngstown Police Department's special units to get more officers on the streets, particularly in high-crime areas.

Hagan is talking to Wellington about using space in the county jail for suspects arrested in Youngstown. If elected mayor, Hagan said he would have a zero-tolerance policy, and would use the new schools being built in Youngstown as community centers.

Maggy Lorenzi, another independent mayoral candidate, said the main problem in the city is drugs, which then leads to increased crime rates.

Lorenzi wants to have the federal Drug Enforcement Administration come to Youngstown.

Lorenzi, who has years of involvement with block watches, said there needs to be more police officers on the streets. The police department needs to be restructured to get more officers patrolling. "We have too many special units," she said.

Restructuring

Robert Korchnak, the Republican nominee, also said the police department needs to restructure the police department to get more officers on the street, and improve response time.

He would also want to partner with other area communities to purchase a police helicopter to patrol the Mahoning Valley at least three times a week to deter time.

Independent candidate Brendan Gilmartin wants the city to implement a program used in Akron that has children take gun awareness programs in high school for credit to teach them the dangers of using weapons.

Joe Louis Teague, another independent candidate, said the U.S. Justice Department needs to have a visible presence in Youngstown to address the crime issue. He also wants two police officers in each patrol car, and less desk officers.

skolnick@vindy.com




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