By Ashley Luthern
The city’s violence is not contained to the South Side, area residents said at a Wednesday forum.
“Violence is mobile. As the city goes, so goes the community,” said the Rev. Joseph Fata of St. Luke Church in Boardman.
Elected and law enforcement officials met at a safety summit Wednesday to discuss the problem of, and potential solutions for, crime in the city. The event was at St. Dominic Church on Lucius Avenue, which has lost two parishioners to murder this year.
Father Fata said when the media report that a shooting occurred near St. Dominic Church, for example, it gives people in surrounding areas a “false sense of security.”
People also are concerned that the South Side focus will leave out other parts of the city, said Rose Carter, lead organizer for the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods.
“I hope it will be a model that will be used throughout the city, in Boardman, in Trumbull County,” Carter said.
Mayor Jay Williams and Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th Ward, both said the plan for the South Side, called Operation Redemption, will be used as a template for the entire city.
According to Williams, Operation Redemption calls for three phrases:
The mayor has said 27 vacant houses near St. Dominic Church will be demolished by the end of the year.
Lt. Kevin Mercer of Youngstown police said that the department already has started saturation patrols and launched Operation Forecast.
The operation “is like trying to forecast the weather,” Mercer said. “We’re identifying criminal patterns and trying to stop crimes before they happen.”
Mercer and Williams emphasized smart policing, using the resources available to the fullest extent.
“There were 250 officers, but that’s just not going to happen,” Williams said, referring to previous staffing levels. There are 155 sworn police officers now. He added that lower numbers of officers should not be an excuse for higher crime rates, and the number of officers does not correlate with the number of homicides annually.
Even though local officials have a plan, they need help from people such as state Attorney General Richard Cordray and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-17th, said the Rev. Gregory Maturi of St. Dominic Church who helped plan the forum with the attorney general’s office.
“The city alone cannot handle it,” Maturi said.
Cordray said the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation will process DNA and fingerprints from Youngstown crime scenes without limit.
Although the attorney general’s office historically did not conduct lab analysis for property crimes, he said that has since changed.
“We’ve made a point and are now taking DNA from property crimes,” he said, noting that 200 such cases are already in process.
Cordray added that this could free up Youngstown police officers from investigative duties to increase patrols.
The attorney general also will have a law-enforcement training session about gangs Jan. 10 in Youngstown.
Clarence Boles of Youngstown asked Cordray: “What prohibits the attorney general from looking at perpetrators as homegrown terrorists” and therefore qualifying for money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?
Cordray answered that it’s hard to equate what the Department of Homeland Security does to protect against domestic and international terrorism with Youngstown crime.
“I sympathize,” he said. “...These violent crimes are more immediate than some vague threat outside the country.”
Demolish vacant houses.
Saturated police patrols.
Fully enforce city code.
Determine penalties for those who receive federal subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Section 8 housing program and are convicted of crimes.
Work with neighborhood watch and association groups to identify problem houses.
Connect children with youth organizations and the elderly with needed services.
Create small neighborhood parks, basketball parks and other recreational spaces.
Bind over to the adult system those juvenile offenders who continue to commit crimes.
Involve those on probation in community service.
Source: Youngstown Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th Ward