'Too hot for drivers with guns and drugs'

YOUNGSTOWN — In 2003, when the city recorded 19 homicides, police made 7,183 traffic stops and the Mahoning County jail population ballooned beyond capacity.

Last year, police made 3,800 traffic stops, the city recorded 32 homicides and the jail, deemed constitutionally unsound, released thousands of inmates to the streets.

City Prosecutor Jay Macejko, at the request of Mayor Jay Williams, compiled the traffic data and is analyzing why traffic stops declined so much over the years. Macejko said traffic interdiction must be a priority because such stops often turn up guns and drugs.

Williams agreed and launched a 30-day zero-tolerance traffic crackdown after a woman and three men were shot to death Monday night on the South Side. All available officers will be enforcing rules of the road.

“Any incident involving a gun is a potential crime of violence,” Macejko said. “Minor traffic stops often recover a gun or a person wanted on a warrant.”

The prosecutor said the Nov. 3, 2006, daylight shooting death of 23-year-old Martwain Dill in a pickup truck on Glenwood Avenue is a good example of guns transported in cars. He said those who opened fire on Dill’s truck arrived in a car.

The Dill shooting surfaced this week as the possible source of a feud that led to the Monday night quadruple homicide on West Evergreen Avenue. One of those accused in the Dill case, 29-year-old Gary Crockett, is a first cousin of Anthony M. Crockett, one of the four victims shot to death Monday night.

Macejko said another example of guns in cars is the Jan. 1 wounding of Anthony Crockett. Crockett, 23, was hit in the leg as he ran from the car he was in after it was shot up on the South Side.

The prosecutor acknowledged that as police step up traffic enforcement, the jail population will increase as it did in 2003, the year inmates filed a class-action lawsuit because of overcrowding. He said he expects a resolution soon to the jail situation.

“Some people need to be locked up,” Macejko said, drawing a correlation between the 19 homicides in 2003 and the jam-packed jail.

In 2002, the city had 33 homicides. In 2001, 34 murders were recorded.

Macejko said the idea of zero-tolerance traffic enforcement is to make it “too hot” for drivers with guns and drugs.

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