‘Huge numbers:’ Police alarmed at amount of bullets fired in Cincinnati each day

A gun is fired once every two hours in the city, according to ShotSpotter data.
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 8:10 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - In the first 200 days of 2021, Cincinnati has seen at least 2,756 incidents of shots fired and 9,551 gunshots total.

That’s an average of one gunfire incident every two hours.

ShotSpotter data of shooting incidents and rounds fired in Cincinnati in the first 200 days of...
ShotSpotter data of shooting incidents and rounds fired in Cincinnati in the first 200 days of 2021.(WXIX)

“It’s alarming,” Cincinnati Police Department Lt. Col. Mike John said. “When you look at nationwide trends, and you look at the number of people shot per 100,000 of the population, Cincinnati is far too high on that list right now. That’s the alarming thing.

“And you know, we can say well, other major cities are experiencing increases in gun violence. But we’re not other major city cities. We’re Cincinnati and we can control what we’re doing in Cincinnati.”

The data comes from the police department’s ShotSpotter program. ShotSpotter is the gunshot detection system Cincinnati started using in 2017.

The technology has been implemented in phases, starting in Avondale, then going to all of Price Hill, the West End, Over-The-Rhine, and Pendleton neighborhoods. Last week the Central Business District went live with the technology.

Incidents of probable and confirmed gunfire in the ShotSpotter program.
Incidents of probable and confirmed gunfire in the ShotSpotter program.(WXIX)

“This is a very sophisticated audio system,” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said. “They know if it’s a backfire. They can, many times tell the caliber gun by the sound of it. And they can pinpoint it within like five yards. And police many times are there before they even get a 911 call.”

John says the system permits quick police responses in addition to helping move investigations forward after the fact.

“When they see shots are fired, the police show up. That’s a good thing. And what we try to do is, even 24 hours later, we’ll do follow-ups and will knock on doors,” he explained. “‘Hey did you see anything? Do you have a ring doorbell camera? What’s going on?’

“Sometimes people don’t want to talk to us right when something happens, and we understand that, but we follow up. So our coverage when it comes to gunfire is much, much better than we had before ShotSpotter was ever implemented.”

John says the first thing he checks every day are the gunshot numbers.

“When we see the number of people shot that we did in 2020, it’s unacceptable,” he said. “And we need to do what we can, what we can to build a strategy to reduce that gun violence. We can’t do it alone. We have to be in partnership, be in collaboration with the community. And this does help. This helps because it gets us out there. And to start that conversation is one of the best things that we can do.”

West End resident Rob Harris is the sort of community leader John says police need to lean on.

“Those numbers are enormous,” Harris said. “So do we look the other way? Or do we act right now?”

Harris grew up in the West End. He says he is not surprised by the numbers.

“Gun violence has always been an issue,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, guns don’t commit the murders, people do. So it’s important that we address the issues and concerns of our people.”

Harris is the president of the Lil’ Senators Pee Wee Football Program. He says the program isn’t just about tackles and touchdowns, it’s the beginning of mentorship.

Rob Harris coaches the Lil' Senators Pee Wee Football team in the West End.
Rob Harris coaches the Lil' Senators Pee Wee Football team in the West End.(WXIX)

“My job is to save these young men and women,” Harris said. “So we have a cheer organization and inspire them that they can be whatever they want to be and put a different thought process in their mind and head. Not only myself, but us as a whole because it really takes a village to really modify and uplift our community.”

One year ago one of the coaches from his program was shot and killed.

“I have friends, family members and now a coach just as late as last year, part of the Lil’ Senators organization, that was very involved with our youth,” Harris said. “The impact still lasts to this day.”

Just behind the practice field is a sign Harris wants young people to believe. It reads: “I am hope, I am peace, I am enough.”

A sign at the Lil’ Senators Pee Wee Football Program.
A sign at the Lil’ Senators Pee Wee Football Program.(WXIX)

On the other end of the practice field is the Street Rescue non-profit working to get unwanted firearms out of the West End before they fall into the wrong hands.

“I tell the young men, this relationship is for life,” Harris said. “And if you need anything, please communicate to me. Someone that grew up in an environment that was toxic, that saw trauma in a drug environment, but there was also love. And those things that worked for me, I have an obligation to give back to those individuals that don’t have a father, that may be struggling, or maybe provide a safe place.”

Harris would like to see city hall address the issue more, and CPD admits there are a lot of stakeholders that need to be at the table.

“It takes all of us to effect a change,” John said. “2020 has been a challenge on so many fronts, a unique challenge for law enforcement, but it’s affected every segment of the infrastructure of business, you know, employment, I mean, just getting basic goods and needs during 2020. Who would have ever thought that, you know, there will be shortages? Like, there were? So yeah, it’s like, I’ll keep going back to this, we can’t do it alone, we absolutely have to have community investment.”

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