Law enforcement surge targets violent crime in Cleveland, Ohio Governor DeWine says
On Tuesday, local, state and federal law enforcement personnel made traffic stops, arrested felons, seized drugs and made addiction referrals on Cleveland's East Side as part of a targeted surge initiative to help Cleveland police fight violent crime, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said during a press conference Wednesday.
Although the data is incomplete, the initiative is off to a busy start. Officials made 57 traffic stops, 20 felony arrests, seized heroin, cocaine and firearms and monitored those who fled traffic stops from helicopters and then directed officers where to find suspects, preventing police chases, DeWine said.
“These partnerships already have yielded tangible results in the city of Cleveland," Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb said.
The surge, which DeWine said will help Cleveland police target violent offenders and drug traffickers, is part of a multipronged initiative to help fight violent crime in the city.
"We know most violent crime is committed by repeat offenders," DeWine said. Those offenders often cannot lawfully carry firearms but do anyway, he said.
Law enforcement will focus on crime hotspots, beginning in the Fourth District, which includes Cleveland's Kinsman neighborhood, DeWine said. Personnel will target other Cleveland neighborhoods also identified as areas of high crime on later dates.
"We'll work to target liquor establishments that are known for illegal sales and that are also hotspots, that we have found are hotspots, for drug trafficking as well as prostitution," DeWine said.
On surge days, Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers will increase the presence of law enforcement in known criminal hotspots, both on the ground and in the air, DeWine said. In four cases on Tuesday, aviation units prevented dangerous pursuits of fleeing suspects, he said.
“Quite literally, they may run, but they cannot hide," DeWine said.
DeWine took a 40-minute flight Wednesday with the State Highway Patrol.
"40 minutes up, they had a productive time," DeWine said. "Ended up with four arrests and four guns seized just in that brief 40-minute period of time."
Troopers will also support local authorities with evidence processing and suspect interviews when needed, DeWine said.
Two previous surges happened last year in April and August, according to DeWine. Surge initiatives have been held in Dayton, Youngstown, Toledo and Columbus. The state has invested more than $26 million to combat crime in Cleveland and $250 million to law enforcement agencies statewide, according to DeWine's office.
In addition to these partnerships, participation in the city's camera-sharing program for residents has tripled in the month since they announced the expansion of the Safe Smart CLE program, Bibb said. Additionally, the city's expansion of ShotSpotter has made a significant impact, he said.
"Already, because we expanded ShotSpotter in all five police districts, we have saved six lives, recovered 25 guns and made 23 arrests," Bibb said.
The police department is also partnering with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office, Police Chief Wayne Drummond said.
"We're starting a patrol Downtown with the sheriff's department that's going to concentrate on the Downtown area," Drummond said. "That's going to be tremendous. You'll see a huge difference with that."
The initiative is designed to help local officials fight a wave of violent crime city leaders have called "unprecedented." Violence in Cleveland burst into the public eye after nine people were injured in a mass shooting on West 6th Street Downtown in July. While that shooting, which made national news, was the most high-profile act of violence in the city this year, many residents have reported feelings of living under the threat of growing brutality.
"Frankly, it breaks your heart," DeWine said. "Every parent has the right to be able to raise their children and be in a neighborhood that is free of crime and free of violence, and so that's really what this is all about."
The number of homicides in the city is up about 20% compared to the same time last year, according to police records. As of Saturday, 111 people had been killed in Cleveland this year. Last year at this time, there had been 91 homicides. The number of robberies, felonious assaults, thefts and arsons is also up compared to last year.
The number of grand thefts of motor vehicles is up nearly 90%, the data shows.
The violence has spurred political sparring. Bibb has called out Republican legislators in Columbus for passing what he said were weak gun laws, and Ward 8 Councilmember Mike Polensek has criticized Bibb for a lack of urgency in addressing gun violence. Acrimony between the mayor and councilman, who has been outspoken about violence in the city, reportedly caused Bibb to boycott a city council meeting last month.
Politicians have suggested a variety of causes for the violence from the ease with which Kias and Hyundais are stolen to lax gun laws to lack of parental involvement.
During Wednesday's press conference, DeWine acknowledged that young people are involved in many of the crimes roiling communities.
"The age of our offenders continues to drop," he said.
Fighting crime ties in with the youth mental health partnership with the county announced Tuesday, Bibb said.
"The data shows you that over two-thirds of juveniles that have been involved in violent crime have at least one diagnosed mental health disability," Bibb said. "Think about that for a second."
Meanwhile, the Cleveland police, tasked with addressing the problem, say they are stretched thin. The department is currently short about 250 of the number of officers funded in the city's 2023 budget and three academy classes this year are anticipated to graduate less than 40 new officers, while 99 officers have already left the department.
An additional 250 officers are eligible for retirement, meaning they’ve served 25 years and are at least 52 years old, according to department figures.
Crime is a complex issue with no easy solution, DeWine acknowledged during the press conference.
"This is a work in progress. We do not have all the answers," he said. "But what we do pledge to the people in Cleveland — to the people in communities hard hit by crime — we pledge the state will stay involved."
While state help is greatly appreciated, residents and law enforcement in Cuyahoga County must control the violence on their own, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley said. There have been more than 1,300 murders since he became prosecutor in 2021, he added.
"Eighty-three percent of those individuals who have been murdered are African-American," O'Malley said. "It's a horrible, embarrassing statistic. The only people who can stop that are the people within our own community."
There’s no end date for the initiative and the goal is to complement the work of the Cleveland police, DeWine said.
"There's no deadline, that's important to understand. This is a continuation of partnership," Drummond said. "It just happened that it's today and yesterday, and again, we're not going to announce the other surge dates or areas."
DeWine pledged that the state will stay involved in combatting violent crime in Cleveland.
"We will continue to do everything that we can," DeWine said. "I know Pete Elliott, the U.S. Marshal, will as well, and we will continue to work very, very closely with the mayor, with council and with the chief."