By David Skolnick
Trying to reduce violent crime, the city will start a three-month police-saturation program Tuesday, introduce a community crime-reduction patrol and extend a gunshot-location system.
Police Chief Rod Foley said at Friday’s city council safety-committee meeting that a Violence Interruption Patrols program [VIP] will run from Tuesday to Sept. 2.
The program — similar to other saturation patrols such as the Violence, Gun Reduction Interdiction Program (V-GRIP) — will include city, Mahoning County, state and federal law-enforcement officials.
The program will target high-crime areas, focusing on deterrence, parole and probation violation sweeps and gang- related violence, Foley said.
“We also want to make sure guns aren’t being carried,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of kids carrying firearms in their waistbands.”
The police budget includes about $100,000 to pay officers to increase patrols for this program, Foley said.
About half of the homicides in the city are retaliatory from members of gangs or groups, including eight of the 14 slayings in the city so far this year, Foley said.
“Disrespecting each other is the [main] cause,” he said.
To reach those younger people, the city is starting a new Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program Friday. The goal is to give younger people alternatives to violence.
William “Guy” Burney, a Youngstown native who lives in Campbell, will run the program for the next six months and be paid $20,000.
The program is based on one in Cincinnati, said DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/administrative assistant.
“It’s not going to solve all murders, but we believe it will help,” said Mayor Charles Sammarone. “It’s not a plan that will work tomorrow. It will take months or a year to implement.”
The program initially will build relationships with existing anti-violence programs, identify issues not being properly addressed and implement programs to resolve those matters, and train people to serve as “peacekeepers,” Burney said.
“We do not lack resources,” he said. “We lack togetherness. We have so many resources in our community. We need to bring them together.”
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, said: “I’m just so glad to see this program get off the ground. This city is going downhill fast.”
Also, Foley wants to extend a contract, which expires June 30, by six months for the ShotSpotter program. The program is supposed to pinpoint where shots are fired but has met with mixed results, Foley said.
The city received a federal grant of about $500,000 to buy and install 29 gunshot sensors on the South Side and pay for the software.
For six months, beginning in July, the city would have to pay $30,000 for the software and maintenance agreement, Foley said. The money will come from the department’s forfeiture fund, he said.
Council’s safety committee accepted Foley’s recommendation and likely will put it up for a full council vote at the June 20 meeting.
Foley said citizens tell him that SpotShotter “gives them an added sense of security even though we haven’t seen a drop in crime” because of the system.
The system hasn’t proved to be a deterrent to crime, and the system has had problems accurately pinpointing locations of shootings, he said.
Because of the inaccuracy issues, officers don’t “trust” the system, Foley said. But the department is willing to give the program an additional six months to see if there are improvements, he said.