Youngstown officials seek to curb city’s violence
By John W. Goodwin Jr.
City officials are searching for new ways to curb violence and are looking at programs that have worked in other Ohio cities as a possible solution.
Mayor Charles Sammarone met Tuesday with members of city council, the clergy, the prosecutor’s office, police department, juvenile court, the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office to discuss programs that may work to reduce violent crime here.
DeMaine Kitchen, secretary to the mayor, said the mayor’s office wants to address violent crime and has spent several months reviewing plans that have been in place.
“We have never really put together a long-term plan that is sustainable to address violent crime. That is the goal,” Kitchen added.
Officials have visited Cleveland to look at crime- reduction programs in that city and also are reviewing some of the initiatives that were put in place in areas such as Cincinnati over the years.
Sammarone said the effort will be a three-pronged approach.
He said several months have been dedicated to gathering information. The next step is the presentation of what has been learned in those months. The final phase, he said, will be to determine how the various programs can be applied here.
“We don’t have to re- invent the wheel. If it is being done in other cities and it is successful, then we can use it in the city of Youngstown,” the mayor said.
The solution to curbing violent crime here, Sammarone said, has to be more than simply going out and arresting people.
Police Chief Rod Foley agreed that arresting chronic offenders is important, but there must be a community approach to help lower-level offenders before they commit more serious crimes.
Foley said the department has identified 30 gangs in operation throughout the city.
He said the makeup of a typical gang has changed. Today’s gang is a group of people who grew up together as friends and begin committing crimes.
Foley said the crimes committed by the group start off small and gradually progress to become more serious.
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko said one of the initiatives the city should undertake is the “CeaseFire” program that has been done in Cleveland. He said the program works to achieve the goal of prosecuting chronic offenders and getting help to those who may be saved from a life of crime.
“It truly is a program or approach designed to save lives. Cities that have maintained this [program] have seen a drastic reduction in homicide,” he said.