City plans crackdown after killing of 4 people
The slayings are 'a punch in the gut to fight back,' the mayor says.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
CITY HALL REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- After a quadruple slaying that Mayor Jay Williams described as "shocking even by Youngstown standards," he said the police department is going into "zero-tolerance" mode.
"Every available officer will be in every available cruiser with specific instructions," he said.
That means effective immediately, police will pull over vehicles for infractions such as failing to have rear bolts on license plates or ticket people for littering for at least the next 30 days, Williams said. The plan is for zero tolerance to reduce crime and put criminals on notice that they won't be able to get away with anything in Youngstown, he said.
After those 30 days, the zero-tolerance policy will be reviewed, he said.
"This is a punch in the gut to fight back," Williams said about the four homicides in the second-floor bedroom of 548 W. Evergreen Ave. on the city's South Side reported to police at 10:24 p.m. Monday.
Three of the four victims had criminal records. Police said an ongoing feud may be the motive for the killings.
"It's virtually impossible to protect people who commit crimes," Williams said.
The mayor said he has "very little sympathy" for people who "put their lives on the edge" by being involved in illegal activities. What's important, Williams said, is protecting the city's law-abiding citizens.
Williams said crime still tops his list of major challenges. It's been a problem in Youngstown for years and can't be resolved overnight, he said.
Earlier this month, Williams said he will ask city council to increase the police department's budget for overtime expenses in an ongoing effort to combat crime.
The mayor doesn't have a specific figure in mind, but said 1.3 million is a start.
"I have no cap on overtime," he said. "We'll spend the resources we have. If we spend 2 million to" reduce the number of expenses then it's worth the expense.
The city hired six new police officers a few months ago and would like to add more, Williams said. Because the city's future financial situation is uncertain, it's not prudent to use the overtime money to hire additional officers just to lay them off at a later time, he said.
During the summer, Youngstown officials will visit Allentown, Pa., where surveillance cameras are to be installed in its downtown and neighborhoods surrounding downtown to monitor criminal activity, Williams said.
Council members respond
Some members of council say it's essentially impossible to stop crimes such as this when it appears the assailants are determined to commit murder regardless of the consequences.
"Things like this, we cannot stop," said Councilman Artis Gillam Sr., D-1st and chairman of the legislative body's safety committee. The homicides occurred in a house in his ward. "The only thing we could do is if there's a grudge, find out about it. But you can't keep an eye on everyone with a grudge."
Councilman Paul Pancoe, D-6th, said this was not a random act of violence.
"I don't know how you stop it," he said. "You can't have a cop at every corner."
Councilwoman Carol Rimedio Righetti, D-4th, said the quadruple slaying is "a scary thing," but police are doing what they can to fight crime.
Councilman Richard Atkinson, R-3rd, said he strongly supports the mayor's effort to increase police overtime. It was just three weeks ago that Atkinson was driving on Hudson Avenue when four gunmen got out of a car and began shooting at three men walking nearby. A large bullet hole was found in his car's front hood, and it had a flat left rear tire, which had also been shot.
Atkinson wants the police overtime money to go toward increasing patrols and police presence.
"If we make people feel uncomfortable about having a gun in a car because of more patrols, that's a good thing," he said. "As far as getting killed in a house, we can't have a police officer in every house."
Some residents won't report crimes, fearing reprisal from those who commit them, Atkinson said. But crime won't be reduced if citizens don't get involved, he said.
There were several 911 calls about the shooting, but apparently none from neighbors of 548 W. Evergreen Ave.
Annie Hall, the city block watch supervisor for the past 17 years, said block watches and city officials need to do whatever is necessary to make sure crimes like Monday's killings don't happen again.
"Things have gone too far," said Hall, who also organizes the city's annual National Night Out. "Anytime we have a killing, it should open people's eyes. People are afraid to talk [because they] fear retaliation."
Some block watches have disbanded over the years because people are scared to report crimes, she said.
"We need to change that mentality," Hall said.
City officials have to show, and not just say, that crime is their No. 1 priority, said Maggy Lorenzi, a co-captain of the Southern Boulevard Blockwatch.
"Until that happens, nothing is going to change," she said. "... The neighborhoods have to come together and focus on the youth."
In some parts of the city, little children can't play in their yards and senior citizens are afraid to leave their homes because of crime, Lorenzi said.