STEUBENVILLE - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced plans for a Safe Neighborhood Initiative program to curb violent crimes in Steubenville.
"We are talking about bringing this new program to Steubenville. The program is in the works in other Ohio communities and has been effective in curbing gun violence," DeWine said at a 90-minute roundtable discussion with local law enforcement officials, elected representatives and community leaders.
The event was co-hosted by DeWine and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta.
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, center, makes a point Monday afternoon while U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, left, and state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, listen. The three elected officials were part of a 45-member public roundtable discussion involving law enforcement officials, business and community leaders and elected officials held at the Eastern Gateway Community College Pugliese Training Center. -- Dave Gossett
"The program allows the local law enforcement officials to identify people who are on probation or parole and have a history of gun violence. We bring them in and tell them we will be watching you. This model was started in other large cities. And the program will be in cooperation with the city police department, the county sheriff, the prosecutor's office, community leaders and churches. Our office can offer more resources to the local community," explained DeWine.
"Unfortunately you have more homicides here than you want to see. What I have seen today is a real cohesive effort. Everyone in this community wants to work together," DeWine told reporters following an hour-long private meeting with area law enforcement officials at the Eastern Gateway Community College Pugliese Training Center.
"We had a very productive, a very good meeting that included about 25 law enforcement representatives. We compared notes on how we can work together more effectively. I can offer from my office help with task forces and the state crime lab. I can also offer special prosecutors and special investigators," cited DeWine.
"It is very important for the entire community to be involved. It will take the community to get angry and take back their city. I asked the local law enforcement officers today what we can do to help. We will continue to talk and continue the discussions. We have the Safe Neighborhood Initiative in Akron and we are starting to see a decrease in violent gun crimes," added DeWine.
DeWine attended a 90-minute public meeting at the training center to discuss crime in the Steubenville area and how it is affecting residents and businesses.
"There are drug problems in all 88 counties in Ohio. When I was a prosecutor back in the 1970s, heroin was confined to the major cities. Now it is everywhere. Synthetic drugs are a problem everywhere. What I see works is when a community gets really mad. We can't do that for you. But we have seen what other communities have done to address crime. We are all throwing ideas out here and we are willing to help. But the lead must come from the local community," DeWine remarked.
Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said his department is receiving, "more help than ever. Sheriff Fred Abdalla has assigned a deputy to help us patrol the hilltop neighborhoods. We have the Ohio Highway State Patrol in the city and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation has been invaluable."
"I talked to the attorney general last year and if he tells you something, he means it. We are now working with two assistant attorney generals to solve homicide cases that are 38 or 39 years old. I can't thank Mike DeWine enough for his help," Abdalla said.
Johnson also addressed crime in the Section 8 rental housing and public housing.
"This is America and I want everyone to live free. But the people in the Section 8 rental housing or public housing have to be responsible. Since our first meeting regarding the public housing issue a year ago I am beginning to see a decrease in crime in U.S. Housing and Urban Development properties. All we want to do is to make sure the problem is solved," Johnson said.
"We also need pressure from the business community. There is a prosperity boom coming to this community and Steubenville needs to be ready for it. We are going to see a boom like you have never seen before. It will be like a gold rush atmosphere. But we need to get crime behind us because we have a lot of prosperity coming here," predicted Johnson.
"First we need to rebuild the image of our city created by a lot of bad press. It is hard to recruit people to come to this community. We need to deal with our problems and get on with it, We need to deal with the crime issues and move forward," said local business owner Geary Teramana.
"We had an industrial company that was interested in coming here but turned us down because of the crime wave here. We need to get ahead of this. Perception is reality. Unfortunately people don't want to come here. In 50 years I have never seen it as bad as it is now. We really have to get ahead of these issues," local business owner Mark Teramana noted.
Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci acknowledged "the problem in our community. But through collaboration we are trying to address the issues. We are all on the same page. These problems are not going away until we work together. We need to reassure our citizens we have a great community and we are going to move forward and address the criminal issues. If we have more economic opportunities we can help reduce crime."
According to state Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, "the only way to fix some of these issues is to realize sometimes we have to spend money. We are letting local governments die on the vine because we don't provide the money they need. Money is important to local communities. We need to do something about this because the state is now sitting on so much money."
"Our state is in a much better financial situation these days and we need to help local governments," commented state Sen. Lou Gentile, D, Steubenville.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)