Curtailing violence


New York City made international headlines after the nation’s largest city didn’t report a single violent crime on Monday, Nov. 26. Anytime 8 million people, gathered in one place, go 24 hours without one person killing, stabbing, or shooting another, it’s partly a matter of pure dumb luck.

Still, the contrast of Gotham’s calm with the almost daily mayhem that plagues Toledo, population 287,000, is stunning and instructive.

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It’s especially troubling that Toledo’s young people account for much of the carnage, which has become increasingly senseless. On the same day that New York City enjoyed its unprecedented 24 hours of peace, a 15-year-old Scott High School freshman was charged with two counts of felonious assault for allegedly shooting another teenager, and then exchanging gunfire with police.

Comparing isolated incidents probably isn’t fair. But Toledo’s rising rate of violence is an established trend, with a nearly 60 percent spike in shootings last year, while New York’s brief hiatus from it is not entirely a fluke.

Murder in New York City is down 23 percent from last year, on track to hit its lowest point since 1960. So far this year, New York has reported 366 murders, compared with 472 a year ago. This year’s tally is less than the 462 murders so far this year in Chicago, a city of 2.7 million people, and not much higher than Philadelphia’s 301 murders, with 1.5 million people.

New York City police attribute their success to data-driven, so-called hot spot policing, which puts officers in targeted high-crime areas. Aggressive New York City police tactics such as “stop and frisk” have rightly been criticized for focusing on black and Latino men.

Other communities, such as Boston with its celebrated “Ten Point Coalition,” have had equal or even greater success with multiprong community policing initiatives. After apologizing for past abuses, Boston police improved community relations, focused enforcement on the most violent offenders, gave opportunities and guidance to those who were willing to change, and worked closely with African-American churches.

A sustained, high-profile anti-violence program that engages the community appears to be lacking in Toledo, where the police force has been less than open. The Toledo Police Department continues to refuse to release a map of gang boundaries — a public document.

The map might help residents understand the extent and location of the city’s gangs — information gang members already know. They might also help residents assess what the police department is doing about the problem.

Despite their different approaches to fighting crime, New York City, Boston, and others have demonstrated that violence is not like the weather. It can be controlled, if police have the trust, respect, and cooperation of the community they serve.

New York City should not be making Ohio’s fourth largest city look bad on crime. As senseless violence continues to rise here, law enforcement ought to respond with a highly visible program that enlists the support of residents, churches, businesses, and community groups.