CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It was a packed house at Elder High School on Wednesday night as Cincinnati's new top cop, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, kicked off a five-stop town hall tour.
The chief and other top police officials are traveling to each district to hear concerns from residents, and lay out plans to cut down on the city's biggest crime issues.
"The city has evolved. Crime has evolved. It's more youth driven now. It's more youth-centered. We need to get in front of it," said Blackwell.
The first stop was in District 3, which has the busiest streets in the city. Last year, police there took nearly 69,000 calls for service. This was the first chance for police to get up close and personal with the people they serve.
"I'm asking for the people of Cincinnati, for the citizens, that's why we're doing these meetings. It's not only to get to know them, but let them get to know us, as well," Blackwell told FOX19.
Concerns of drug activity, long response times and violence all at the forefront. In fact, 27 of the city's homicides in 2013 happened on District 3 streets. That makes up 36 percent of the murder rate, which is the highest in the city.
For one man, the violence is something he knows all too well.
"I've seen people getting shot. I've seen people getting robbed. I've seen stores getting their buildings vandalized," said Ryan Leigh of Westwood.
Leigh is a recovering heroin addict who is now a year clean. He started doing drugs at age sixteen. He sees the drug problem as a catalyst for the crime.
"People are saying that the police aren't doing their job, but they're trying their hardest to clean up the streets. The heroin epidemic is getting out of hand," Leigh said.
He's not the only one seeing the problems first hand.
"A really good friend murdered a kid who was 17-years-old. Didn't even get to see grown manhood," said Josh George, a lifelong Price Hill resident.
George wants to see things cleaned up for the good of the city.
That's also Blackwell's plan.
"I'm asking for a little time, a little patience so that we can try to make it a safer city," Blackwell said.
Blackwell is hopeful he can get a recruit class soon to deal with the number of crimes, and the shortfall of officers.
From the information they collect at these meetings, police will use that to help plan their strategic efforts for the future.
For a complete list, dates and times of the town hall meetings, click here: http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/police/news/cincinnati-police-department-to-hold-district-town-hall-meetings/