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Toledo police increase efforts to combat violent crime

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    Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz and Toledo Police chief George Kral address the recent murders and outline plans to combat violence in the city, at a press conference in Toledo, Ohio on January 29, 2018.

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    Art Jones, board chair of Bethany House, for victims of domestic violence and their children, holds up a sign that is part of a national No More campaign, an effort which seeks to end domestic violence and sexual assault, during the press conference.

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    Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz speaking at the press conference.

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    Toledo mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz speaking at the press conference. He announced that a soon-to-begin program called "Not in my house", will enable people to call the police to have drugs and/or guns removed from their homes without legal ramifications.

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Toledo police are ramping up efforts to reduce gun violence in the wake of the city’s sixth homicide of the year, city officials said.

Police Chief George Kral and Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz at a news conference Monday announced they’re launching a Not in My House program, which encourages citizens to turn over guns or drugs. Officers will collect the weapons or illegal substances, no questions asked.

“There is an amnesty component to it,” Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. “We just want caregivers to feel free to get drugs and illegal guns out of their home without fear of legal reprisal.”

Toledo tallied its sixth homicide for the year when DeShawn Gott, 21, was fatally shot Jan. 23. According to The Blade’s homicide report, it’s the earliest in more than a decade the city has recorded its sixth homicide. On average during the last 10 years it has taken 84 days, or until late March, for the city to log that many homicides.

The Not in My House initiative will roll out next month. Officers will canvass neighborhoods, explain the program, and hand out flyers and stickers that residents can put in their windows to let the community know that drugs and illegal guns are not welcome in their home. It’s an idea Mr. Kapszukiewicz said came from Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates.

“What we’re getting at here is a mom, a dad, or maybe a grandma or a grandfather who suspects that maybe the younger person living in that home might be involved in a gang, might have drugs, might have an illegal gun in the home,” he said. “We want that caregiver to have an ability to get those drugs out of his or her home, to get that illegal gun out of his or her home, without worrying about any legal ramifications.”

Once a month, officers will distribute Not in My House fliers and stickers to 75 homes and businesses in a given neighborhood. Officials also are developing a curriculum school resource officers can use in conjunction with the fliers, and each high school in Toledo will include information about the program in its welcoming materials on the first day of classes next year.

Chief Kral said his hope is that one by one, homes in the city become safer as a result.

“Eventually that entire street is going to have these stickers and people are going to know, ‘Hey, don’t bring dope, don’t bring guns to hide in this house as a stash house,’” he said. “That street is going to resonate into a block, and that block is going to be successful, and the next block is going to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do it here.’”

Arthur Jones, a South Toledo resident who serves on the Lucas County Domestic Violence Task Force board, asked the mayor on Monday to put a focus on domestic violence as the city works to address violent crime. He also requested officers “talk to young kids and find out what they’re seeing.”

Montrice Terry spoke on behalf of the City Park League basketball program and urged city leaders to consider how recreational opportunities could help keep children and young adults away from crime.

“I would like for us to continue to be open-minded to finding solutions and conversations on what can be a deterrent,” he said.

Chief Kral also announced personnel changes on Monday. He’ll shift two detectives to the narcotics unit, four detectives to the investigations bureau, and two sergeants to special operations, effective Thursday. Overtime for marked patrols, plain clothes officers, and tactical operations will also increase, he said.

The overtime is being authorized on a case-by-case basis “until we get a handle on what’s going on,” the chief said. In 2017 the department used about $3.05 million of its budgeted $3.11 million for overtime costs.

EDITORIAL: More cops are not enough

The police department also will increase intelligence briefings about field operations, special operations, and investigations. Officers will continue Operation STOP, or Strategic Tactical Operations Policing, a program that began in March, 2017, to reduce gun violence by using crime data to inform community policing efforts.

Mayor Kapszukiewicz has pledged to hire 40 police officers in each year of his administration, and the city has a class of 38 officers preparing to join the force soon. With retirements, the city should have an additional 60 to 70 officers in the department by the end of Mr. Kapszukiewicz’s term.

The mayor and the police chief also said they want to have 80 community block watch groups within the city by the end of the year. There’s currently 67 such groups in Toledo. Chief Kral called crime prevention a “community responsibility” and urged citizens to get involved.

“Get angry. It’s our own people that are getting shot and killed. If you see something, say something,” he said. “Be part of the solution.”

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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