Juvenile involvement concerns Youngstown police after slight increase in homicides in 2011

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



The city recorded two more homicides in 2011 than in 2010, and police are concerned about the number of young people involved in those crimes.

The city had a total of 23 homicides in 2011 as of late Friday. There were 21 homicides in 2010.

Of the 23 homicides, there were 18 people under age 21 involved in the crimes as either victims or accused perpetrators. Seven of those people were juveniles under 18.

Several homicides remain unsolved, meaning the figure for young people involved in the crimes could be higher if those not apprehended also are under 21.

Police Chief Rod Foley said getting guns out of the hands of young people will be a focus for police going forward.

“One big thing this year is that we had more young people shot and a lot of young suspects,” he said. “The [word] on the street is that there are a lot more young kids carrying guns. That is why we want to get some citywide programs going in order to have more interdiction with these kids.”

Foley referenced several programs to handle crime discussed by city officials at a meeting earlier this month.

During that meeting, the chief said mass arrests alone won’t solve violent crime. He said the city must use programs to work with young, lower-level offenders before they commit more serious crimes.

“These kids are having these guns even in their homes, hiding them from their parents,” he said. “We arrest them walking the streets with these guns and ask why. They say because it is dangerous out here, but that’s because they are all carrying these guns.”

Foley said the department, in conjunction with the juvenile court, will continue to do sweeps and random checks of juveniles on probation. He said there also will be continued strong enforcement of lower-level crimes to keep offenders off the streets.

More than half of the homicides this year have been solved, police say. The success rate in solving the crimes was much better in the beginning of the year with arrests having been made in all but one of the first 11 slayings of the year.

Arrests have been made in only three of the last 11 homicides, however.

Foley acknowledged the two-victim increase in the homicide rate for 2011 over 2010, but said the numbers are relatively close and a big difference from numbers seen here five or more years ago.

“We are still trending down from a decade ago,” he said. “There is still that age-old problem of people not cooperating at crime scenes. A lot of these cases could be solved if people cooperate, but they are scared.”

Foley said police have suspects in several of the unsolved slayings for 2011, but getting witnesses to come forward is problematic.

Police, in some cases such as the unsolved killing of 17-year-old Joshua T. Davis, have questioned more than two dozen suspects and potential witnesses to no avail.

Davis was found shot in the left cheek and upper right groin at his Willis Avenue home and was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where he was pronounced dead Sept. 18. His mother said a dark-colored SUV sped away from their home toward Market Street immediately after the shooting.

Police also have questioned numerous suspects and witnesses in the unsolved slaying of 22-year-old Jerome G. Miller, whose nickname was “Noodle,” on the city’s South Side on Oct. 21. He was found shot to death in a parking lot outside a South Avenue bar with numerous people in the area.

Tamara Sharpe, 33, was wounded at the time of the shooting. She is related to 20-year-old Tequon Sharpe, who was killed earlier in the year on the city’s South Side. Tequon Sharpe’s mother also was reportedly in the area of the bar at the time of the Miller shooting.

No arrests have been made in the Sharpe or Miller deaths.

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