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Cleveland on track to surpass last year’s murder rate, city leader says

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 11:30 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The city of Cleveland is now on track to surpass last year’s murder rate. That’s according to the city’s longest sitting city council member who tells 19 News, dealing with the crime and violence problem needs to be priority one for the city’s new mayor.

If seven more people lose their lives to violence on the streets before the New Year, the tragic reality is Cleveland will surpass 2020 and record the highest homicide rate.

Zonita Terrell grew up in Cleveland and has lost two nephews to murder in one month. She’s lost three loved ones to murder in the past ten years and says the bloodshed, unfortunately, is not just a city problem; the suburbs, unfortunately, are experiencing violence like never before, “They are dying. Our kids are literally dying on these streets like we (are) in the middle of a war.”

Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek tells 19 News violence and the fear and heartbreak it brings have the city’s population shrinking fast, “One of the big issues is crime. People can talk with their feet because with interest rates at 3%, mortgage rates; they have options today they never had before.”

Councilman Polensek says that’s why the city needs to make a move and find a way to take the guns and violence off the streets and provide more opportunities to those who live in the city. He says when Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb takes office in the new year, silencing the violence will be his biggest challenge, “We’re at 160 homicides in this city. The second highest since 1993. We still have a month to go yet.”

One of the most glaring issues is a dwindling police force because many officer are being courted by other cities, including Strongsville and Columbus. Communities and, in many cases, suburbs that can offer more money to officers to fight a smaller amount of crime. Cleveland is down 168 officers who have retired or resigned just this year, according to city leaders, “Besides doing the recruitment collectively both the administration and council is going to have to look at the pay rates, to raise the pay rates to make ours more competitive with the suburban communities. Because if not, we’re going to continue to lose officers.”

The criminal element has even taken notice of the officer shortage by appearing not to fear consequences for their crimes, and those criminals have taken advantage by instilling fear in others.

Councilman Polensek says that’s why we must recruit good officers to build up the ranks, “You have to instill some type of level of fear back into the criminal element that you can not just do what you want to do in these streets.”

Some people feel it’s also important to go back to real community policing, officers in some cases walking their neighborhoods, and law enforcement officers who choose to live in the city they patrol. But it’s also about parents who lay down their law with their children to ensure they are productive citizens.

Zonita Terrell tells 19 News, “Put the neighbor back in the neighborhood because right now it’s the hood. We have got to put the neighbor back in the neighborhood.”

19 News has reached out to Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb to find out how he plans to tackle the crime and violence issue. We are waiting on his response and will make sure you hear it here first on your breaking news leader, 19 News.

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