The Lima News will share the four Lima mayoral candidates’ answers to a different question each week through the May 4 primary.
Candidates were given up to 200 words to explain their answer, and they had four days to respond. Their answers appear as they submitted them, with minimal editing.
This week’s question: How would you address the root problems behind Lima’s spike in violent crimes in 2020?
When faced with a wave of violent crime in 1990s, the city of New York started small and dreamed big. They cleaned up streets, literally picked up litter. They fixed deteriorating structures, mended broken windows, cleaned up graffiti, they fixed streetlights that had long been neglected. People were cited for J-walking, parking violations were enforced. New York decided to stop tolerating a city that visually invited crime.
The next step was to work with the police chief and set police on specific geographic “beats,” getting to know each neighborhood, know what belonged and what didn’t. As the police got to know neighbors, connected with people they built cooperative and trust-based relationships that made them part of a neighborhood. Neighbors became the eyes and ears of the police and stopped the progression of crime before it could get out of hand and consume an area or neighborhood.
In Lima, we have willing neighborhood associations and police that have experienced test runs of Community Policing. Instituting just this sort of city “clean-up” will reap the benefit of pushing crime out and the best part of this strategy is that we do it all together, which is now more critical than ever.
Lack of manpower in the LPD and our city’s drug problem had dramatic effects on the rise in violent crimes last year. Murders rose from 5 in 2019 to 12 in 2020, and though the number of juvenile crimes decreased, severity worsened. Having looked at the homicide cases individually, mental health issues, drugs and gang violence had a hand in virtually all of them. With LPD understaffed by nearly 20%, how can our city’s safety patrol work these cases after they happen and also be out to prevent them. I will staff safety services to a proper level so officers can keep up with daily activities and still be proactive.
Jesse Lowe said in 2008, “drugs bring death” spiritually, mentally and physically. It was never more true than in 2020. I envision creating a Director of Safety Services position. This role will be vital in bridging information and needs between my administration and the LPD force. I see this as a huge addition to keeping our community up to date on and aware of the city’s happenings. The local FOP have endorsed me as their choice for mayor and believe I am the best person to reverse this disturbing trend.
In order to have an impact on violent crimes in Lima, we have to understand that these issues are symptoms of deeper problems. Problems that have been growing unchecked in our city for decades. If we truly want to see different results, we have to expand our understanding and change how we are addressing these matters.
First, we need to see that the root causes of violent crime are inequality, lack of personal empowerment, lack of support to families and neighborhoods, inaccessibility to services, lack of leadership in communities, little value placed on children and individual well-being, poor healthcare, and bad housing.
How many violent crimes take place that could be prevented by simply creating environments that are more conducive to growth and development?
Thich Nhat Hanh says, “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.”
We must shift from a reactive society, from policing and punishing criminals to prevention, supporting and nourishing people and communities. Before they become so desperate that they fall into places of hopelessness and despair. This is the way.
As Mayor, my law enforcement strategy will focus on the following best practices supported by the Department of Justice, Ohio Policing Collaborative, US Conference of Mayors, and citizen input:
Collaboration: When the relationship between the police and the community is strained, police are not as effective. We must create a culture where both see themselves as partners who share a commitment to keep us safe and reduce crime.
Treatment: Develop a behavioral health response team to dispatch to nonviolent situations involving domestics, mental illness, and addiction.
Prevention: Implement early prevention strategies that include improved education outcomes, targeted gang intervention, and a public health approach to reducing gun violence.
Targeted violence reduction:
• Implement a Safe Neighborhoods Initiative that brings together police, prosecutors, and community leaders to utilize intelligence and technology to identify violent crime and work to reduce the negative impact of nuisance properties (hotspots, poor lighting, vacant properties) that contribute to violent crime.
• Conduct targeted warrant roundups prioritizing offenders who have a history of committing violent crimes.
• Implement a focused deterrent program that identifies violent offenders, provides access to service providers and programs to begin a non-criminal lifestyle, and sends a clear message that continued violence will not be tolerated.
Lima’s mayor candidates for the 2021 primary are, from left, Elizabeth Hardesty, Joshua Hayes, Sharetta Smith and Autumn Swanson.