Violence program needs work

They number more than a dozen. The men are identified as some of the most violent offenders in Trumbull County on parole or probation. They are considered among the most likely to commit gang-related violence.

As part of their parole or probation they were required to attend Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s ”Safe Neighborhoods Initiative.” They sat in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Logan’s jury box and for two hours listened to Warren police Chief Erik Merkel and a parade of other speakers.

The speakers included Richard C. Rollison III, whose son was fatally shot Oct. 26; Dr. James Graham of St. Elizabeth Health Center, who spoke about the medical effects of gunshot wounds; Pamela McCoy, whose 11-year-old son, Lloyd, died in April 2009 after being caught in a hail of gunfire meant for someone else; and Roscoe Thomas, who revealed his history with police and told the men, ”God changed me. If I can change anyone can.” The speakers included representatives from the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Patrol and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The speakers asked the men to spread word that violence in Warren would no longer be tolerated. If the offenders comply with the request, they will receive assistance needed to help them change their lives. If not, they will face stiffer penalties.

We applaud the effort, but question the venue.

Something different needs to be done. Warren recorded five homicides in 2012. The city recorded 10 homicides in 2013.

”I’m tired of it, and the community is tired of it,” Merkel said.

Indeed, good people in Warren have grown weary from the violence. Businesses are suffering from a lack of visitors who have grown afraid to travel into the city.

The Safe Neighborhoods Initiative is something different. It could be part of the solution. Cincinnati recorded a 41 percent decrease in gang homicides and 22 percent drop in other violent firearm incidents after launching a Safe Neighborhoods Initiative.

Warren needs to look at what other factors – increased police staffing, for example – may have contributed to Cincinnati’s success. Nicely asking the bad guys to stop shooting each other, by itself, is not likely to work.

As for the venue, a neutral location such as a church would be more appropriate considering how the gathering was privately held. Herding everybody into the county courthouse, one of the most sacred grounds of a free society, then locking the doors and denying public access seems inappropriate as does prohibiting everybody, including the media, from recording the proceedings.