CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says the city is not unique in having an increase in shootings during COVID-19, according to a statement he released Sunday morning in reaction to four shootings that left four dead and at least 15 others wounded.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing unprecedented circumstances and challenges when it comes to fighting crime,” Cranley said. “Cities nationwide are experiencing spikes in crime.”
Cincinnati’s mayor says the city has seen a huge increase in shootings as people with guns gather in private homes and public places like Grant Park after the bars close at 10 p.m.
Cranley urged people not to attend such gatherings because they could end up being an innocent victim.
“I am also calling on everyone to help put an end (to) this culture of resolving personal disputes with guns as well as to reduce the far too prevalent availability of guns on our streets,” the mayor said.
Cranley says he supports Cincinnati Police Chief Elliot in his effort to increase resources and police presence to immediately to address crime in the wake of the pandemic.
“The very sad reality is people are getting in trouble when they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Our police are working very hard to bring the shooters to justice and try to suppress this violence. They will put themselves in harm’s way to protect us all and they need our support,” the mayor said.
For his part, Chief Issac said in a statement, “This amount of gun violence and the damage this has inflicted on our neighborhoods is unacceptable. I am calling on all citizens of this great city to say enough is enough! We must not sit by silently and say we can’t do anything to end gun violence. We all have a moral obligation to stop the violence and stop the killing in our communities.”
Candidate for mayor and Councilman David Mann said on Twitter that the shootings and deaths “cannot be the new normal”.
“We have a lot to do working with and supporting our police and understanding how this violence can (be) reined in. We have no higher priority,” Mann said.
As a candidate for mayor, Mann told FOX19 NOW that he would make sure police are targeted in their efforts - and to a great extent they are - and that more officers may be needed for certain initiatives.
Mann also said the number of people in Grant Park may reflect a lack of an alternative, how parents are not doing their job and may reflect how some have reacted to the challenges of the pandemic.
Councilman Jeff Pastor told FOX19 NOW that we need to address the systemic class issues that seem to be furthering the surge of violence.
“What really irks me is the lives that are taken are folks who look like me. Given what we’re experiencing on a national level, the national conversation about Black Lives Matter, I just find this distracting from the necessary reforms that we need to see in this country,” Pastor said.
He calls the shootings a senseless act of violence and says there’s no excuse for it.
“We need to pause and mourn the loss of lives taken far too soon. Additionally, these shootings are taking place in areas with high concentration of poverty. Council must address the continued growing systemic issues of classism that is (sic) creating these violent conditions,” Pastor said.
Like Mayor Cranley, Councilman Greg Landsman says the COVID-19 pandemic is making gun violence worse.
“There’s no question that the increase in shootings, the record number of homicides the whole horrible situation and what happened last night has been exacerbated by the fact that we’re dealing with this global pandemic and folks are out a lot more than they would be and a lot of them aren’t working,” Landsman stated.
Landsman said in a statement that he’s encouraged the city administration to work with council and the community on new efforts to keep children and families safe.
“We have to do more to get these guns, shift more of our resources to focus on violent crime, and strengthen community-based problem-solving,” Landsman said.
State senator and retired Cincinnati police detective Cecil Thomas says the shootings are heartbreaking for our city but unfortunately they are the unintended consequences of the climate we’re in.
He agrees that COVID-19 and having bars close at 10 p.m. are contributing factors to gun violence.
“People show up at a club, it draws huge crowds. People start to gather on the streets, all sorts of things start happening and all it takes is for once incident, one person griping with another person, and not only do they shoot each other, a lot of other people get shot,” Thomas said.
Head of the Cincinnati police union Dan Hils says the high volume of shootings takes its toll on those trying to solve crimes.
Hils is urging city leaders to speak up and act on the violence in Cincinnati.
“You should be hearing from any leader that has tied to Cincinnati saying, ‘not here, this should not be going on here.’ I cannot speak for Chicago or New York, but this is Cincinnati and this is supposed to be our home town. This is not supposed to be a place that is a shooting gallery. We should be doing everything we can to reduce the violence in the streets,” Hils said.
Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said in a press release about the four deaths, “Even one lost life is a crisis.”
Like her other constituents, Kearney, feels that COVID-19 is a reason for this violent outbreak, “People are depressed and angry, tired of being cooped up, tired of struggling to survive, and tempers are flaring. Those conditions coupled with easy access to guns create a dangerous problem, as we saw in the early hours of Sunday morning.”
She believes that the issue of gun violence in Cincinnati is nuanced and that, “Extreme reactions like doubling the police presence or conversely, keeping the police out of the communities, are not answers.”