Warren wants cease-fire

WARREN – City police are calling for a “cease fire.”

Warren police Chief Eric Merkel said many crimes that plague the city are perpetrated by convicted felons who are not permitted to have guns in the first place.

Next month, the city will kick off an initiative that involves “calling in” local felons who are on parole or probation and individuals identified to be the most likely to commit gang-related violence.

The “by invitation only” call-in is set for Dec. 20 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew D. Logan’s courtroom. Merkel said the message is simple: “Stop the violence.”

“We know who these people are. We’re calling them in and letting them know we’re not going to stand for this anymore. It’s simple. Stop shooting.”

Warren police have been working with state officials the past few months to develop the local initiative Warren (Ceasefire). The effort is part of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Safe Neighborhoods Initiative.

Other cities, including Cincinnati and Akron, have joined the ranks. Nationally, Boston and other cities across the country have set up similar efforts. Cincinnati has seen a 41 percent reduction in gang-related violence since launching its initiative, according to the attorney general’s office.

Information provided by DeWine’s office also describes the effort as “a violence reduction strategy targeting individuals mostly likely to commit future acts of gun related violence.”

Merkel traveled to Akron, which launched its initiative a few months ago, recently to see the program put into practice. He is confident Warren’s partnership with the attorney general’s office will persuade some people to get on the right track and turn their lives around.

“And we’re there to help them,” he said. “If they want out of this lifestyle, we’ll do what we can, put them in contact with people who can assist them.”

Individuals most likely to commit future acts of gun-related violence are targeted through the accumulation and analysis of criminal and social networking data.

Merkel said state officials have spent time meeting with Warren police officers, going over records and incident reports to identify potential candidates for the effort.

At next month’s call-in, those individuals will be confronted by law enforcement officials, social service representatives and community outreach teams.

Merkel said he will address the participants about the consequences of their continued gang-related and criminal activities. A portion of the program will involves allowing family and community members to confront offenders about how gun violence has impacted them.

Merkel pointed out there is no cost to local taxpayers because the attorney general’s office has done most of the legwork. He said an important part of the program involves follow-up with offenders involved in the initiative and conducting similar meetings two to three times a year.

“I believe it will benefit everyone involved. It’s opening up communications, putting it all out there. What’s going on here is that you’re hurting yourself, killing your family members, causing chaos in the community. It has to stop. You have to stop. That’s what we want to get across. Stop hurting yourself, each other and everyone else.”