Homicide trends have YPD focusing more on domestic crime follow up in ‘18

By Joe Gorman



An increase in homicides in 2017 has police switching tactics.

Youngstown recorded 26 homicides in 2017, an increase of seven from the 19 recorded in 2016.

Vindicator files show that of the homicides in 2017, 16 were solved. In 2016, police solved 10 homicides.

Police Chief Robin Lees said the city now is seeing more domestic-related homicides than in recent years, and he wants to have the city’s Community Initiative to Reduce Violence help out in the same way CIRV helps in combating gang violence.

Lees said he also expects the department’s Family Investigative Services Unit to become more involved. The unit investigates crimes against children and domestic violence.

Lees said domestic-related homicides are hard to combat because often they are the culmination of other events that happen behind closed doors and can erupt at any time with hardly any warning.

He said he wants FISU to do more follow-ups with domestic-violence victims to try to get them help to leave or improve their situation in another way.

Capt. Brad Blackburn, chief of detectives, said domestic homicides in some ways are not as difficult to investigate as other cases because often the suspect and motive are both known to a variety of people in the victim’s circle.

But, as with all crimes, there are some pitfalls that come with investigating domestic-violence crimes.

Lees said victims often are reluctant to press charges because the person who hurt them is the breadwinner in the household or victims are used to being in an abusive situation. Oftentimes they want nothing to do with police after the initial call for help, he added.

That is where FISU can help with the ability to get counseling and other financial help for victims to help head off a more dangerous situation, the chief said.

CIRV also has access to social services and other types of help, including employment, and Lees said they may do call-ins, much like they do with people who are in gangs, to try to defuse domestic situations before they get out of hand.

Besides more domestic-type homicides in 2017, the department also had several homicides that were the result of arguments being settled with guns instead of fists, Lees said.

“There are a lot of people carrying guns who are quick to respond to what they consider an insult with extreme violence,” Lees said.

Blackburn said one of the strengths for the detective division in 2017 was its ability to work with all kinds of different law-enforcement units.

He said from patrol to the various task forces to the U.S. Marshals, the relationships come in handy when they need to ask for surveillance or have an officer stay at a location until a search warrant is obtained.

Blackburn said he also is pleased with the work of several new detectives who took the place of longtime veteran detectives who have retired in the past couple of years. He said they come from a variety of backgrounds in the department, and that experience is a big help when they are assigned a case.

“We just wouldn’t be able to do it [investigations] with just a team of two detectives by ourselves,” Blackburn said.

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