Cincinnati’s City Council has voted to give local police a specific benchmark for reducing violent crime, reports the Cincinnati Post. It narrowly rejected proposals to create special police units for dealing with homicides and gangs. The benchmark, proposed by Council Member Laketa Cole, calls for the police department to draft a plan for lowering homicides and violent crime by 20 percent within a year in the city’s 10 most crime-ridden neighborhoods. A specific goal is needed to hold police accountable and try new approaches to fighting crime. “This is about Council doing their job by setting policy direction,” Cole said. “What I can tell you is what we’re doing today is not working.”
Cincinnati has had 22 homicides so far this year, compared with the 17 homicides by this time in 2004. That rate puts the city on track to exceed last year’s 66 killings, as well as the 75 homicides in 2003, which were a 26-year high. From 1998 to 2003, Cincinnati’s homicide rate increased 140 percent, one of the largest jumps nationwide. “Are we in a crisis? Absolutely,” said Council Member David Pepper. “The numbers bear it out. We have gone from a safe city to a dangerous city.” City Manager Valerie Lemmie and police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. have resisted setting a specific goal for crime reduction. By setting a specific goal for the police department, “you set the city, the agency and other people up for failure,” Assistant Police Chief Richard Janke said last December. Mayor Charlie Luken supported using the benchmark, but he believes a broader effort is needed. He urged other parties in a police-reform agreement that settled a racial-profiling lawsuit against the department to get residents more involved.