Recent FBI statistics show Akron’s crime rate decreasing. Especially encouraging was an 11 percent decline in homicides from 2011 to 2012. Still, as described recently by Phil Trexler, a Beacon Journal staff writer, that is little consolation to those who live in the “hot spots” where violent crime is concentrated. In neighborhoods such as the Copley Road area, the shooting continues. Meanwhile, calls for action come from families, neighborhood activists and council members.
In May, Don Plusquellic and James Nice announced a crackdown on inner-city crime, the effort aimed at Copley Road and other high-crime areas. The mayor and police chief stressed a coordinated approach using a task force of from 35 to 40 officers drawn from the Akron police, the Summit County sheriff’s office, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies.
Nice sees the strategy as ongoing, the focused approach reflecting his experience as an FBI agent fighting gang violence in Los Angeles and other cities. Such a strategy has been used effectively against other crime, notably in New York City.
The chief wants to reduce the number of homicides by 10 percent to 15 percent by concentrating on the small groups of extremely violent people responsible for nearly all the shooting incidents. In the past two months, at least three homicides have been prevented. Another measure of success is the number of illegal firearms taken off the streets. Since 2011, nearly 1,300 have been seized, with more than 70 confiscated in January.
Community policing concepts also are important, officers developing relationships that lead to better information, building trust, the result a more nimble use of available forces to prevent crime. All of it requires the crucial element of trust, neighborhoods in the city’s long-term plan; police officers in citizens providing the information needed to make arrests.
Nice correctly views the effort as requiring persistence. The key is to remain focused on the target, the department building cooperation among law enforcement agencies and neighborhoods, making adjustments along the way, ultimately cooling down the city’s hot spots.