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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Cincinnati: Homicides ahead of '07 pace Drug Shortage to Blame

Cincinnati has been a violent place lately.

In the last week, there have been five homicides - increasing the number this year to 58, compared to 55 homicides at this time last year. On Sept. 29 and Sept. 30 alone, there were 15 shootings.

The increase of gun violence has gotten the attention of police, judges and Mayor Mark Mallory.

So why more violence? Why now?

Police say cutting the supply of illegal drugs may be the cause locally.

The national cocaine supply out of Latin America is dwindling due to tighter border control and stricter laws, police say.

"Our intelligence says there is quite a shortage on crack cocaine right now, and that has the buyers frantic to buy based on their addiction and the sellers know their livelihood is threatened based on supply and demand," said Lt. Col. James Whalen, Cincinnati's patrol bureau commander. "When you get involved with buying and selling drugs, unfortunately you run into violence."

Some are not convinced that the shortage of drugs in the city has a correlation to the rise of violence.

"The way it usually works is the more dope on the street, the more fellas on the street, the more competition for corners on the street, the more gun violence," said Michael Levine, a former 25-year DEA agent and a police expert on drugs, currently located in High Falls, N.Y.

"So what are we supposed to believe, that we should import crack to Cincinnati to stop violence? We'll have the Red Cross do a peace mission of crack cocaine drops," he said.

Whatever the reason, it's clear that the city is suffering. City hospitals have seen an increase in gunshot victims. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has already equaled last year's number of trauma patients, 28, and there are nearly three months left in the year.

University Hospital, whose records are current only to August, is on pace to treat 204 gunshot victims by the end of the year, two more than in 2007.

But since that trend does not include the rash of violence in September, the hospital may deal with numbers closer to those of 2006, the most violent year in Cincinnati history with 242 gunshot victims at University and a record 86 homicides in the city.

That does not surprise Dr. Jay Johannigman, director of the division of Trauma and Critical Care at University. He thinks that University could see from 250 to 280 gunshot victims by the end of the year.

"It's been a constant battle we've had here as physicians for the last seven years or so," he said.

Mallory and City Manager Milton Dohoney last week made a plea for the drug-related violence to stop. CeaseFire Cincinnati marched Friday to recent shooting sites, urging an end to violence. [Mark Godsey]

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