CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cleveland’s police chief, Wayne Drummond, struck a passionate tone as he warned that violent crime is up in the city compared to this time last year.
Speaking to reporters at the Collinwood Recreation Center on Thursday, Drummond was strikingly blunt when referencing a 7-year-old girl shot in the head Wednesday in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
“In her home. Her safe haven,” Drummond emphasized. “That should shock you to your core.”
City leaders organized the press conference to acknowledge rising crime and implore residents to help. They also outlined a handful of recent initiatives to prevent violence, while conceding that the city won’t meet its police recruitment goals this year.
Mayor Justin Bibb, who has often called public safety his No. 1 priority, pushed for Ohio and federal legislators to tackle the issue of gun violence plaguing the nation.
“It’s time for Republican lawmakers to step up and do their job,” said Bibb, a Democrat, who cited lax firearm laws.
According to police statistics, citywide violent crime is up this year in four categories: homicide, aggravated robbery, felonious assault and rape. Murders committed with guns are up more than 14%, police say.
Drummond said preliminary information suggests that the 7-year-old Mount Pleasant girl might have been shot by a sibling. He said that someone — not necessarily the shooter — fled with the gun, and police are attempting to locate that person. The girl is in critical condition.
“It bothers me when I get a text in the middle of night … about a 7-year-old girl being shot in the head,” Drummond said. “That bothers me, and I hope it bothers you, too.”
Drummond and Bibb ticked off several initiatives they hope will reduce the bloodshed. This week, the city announced its expansion of ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system using sensors affixed to buildings and lamp posts to identify gunshots with precise accuracy and notify patrol officers within a minute.
The city’s ShotSpotter initiative began three years ago as a pilot in the 4th District, which covers the southeast portion of Cleveland. This year’s expansion to each of the four other police districts in the city, which will be in place for at least three years, is funded through a $2.76 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation.
Bibb promised to meet and talk with Clevelanders this summer through safety walks. He also plans to work with federal law enforcement agencies to make targeted sweeps of suspects with outstanding warrants. But any successful crime-reduction push, he stressed, requires tips from the public.
“This is a communitywide effort,” Bibb said. “A government cannot do it alone.”
Sonya Pryor-Jones, the city’s chief of Youth & Family Success, announced a $10 million neighborhood safety fund approved by City Council last week, which she said will be “monumental” in reducing violence over several years by addressing root causes.
Drummond also addressed the city’s battle to retain and recruit officers during a period of steady depletion. The city is down 230 officers from its budgeted target of 1,498. The goal this year was to hire 180 recruits this year, but that mark will be missed, the chief acknowledged.
“We know this is going to be an interesting summer because of the levels of the Cleveland Police Department,” City Councilman Michael Polensek, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, told reporters.