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Y'Town Travels III
January 18, 2008 - Joe Gorman
-- Before I start, if anyone can think of a better title, don't be bashful in suggesting it. Also, I am efforting to come up with a better picture, not that I photograph well anyway, but that mug shot is eight years and 15 pounds ago.
-- My main story for Saturday's paper is the city's crime stats for 2007, which show a decrease in overall crime of 13 percent, even though there were more homicides -- 39-- in 2007 that the 32 recorded in 2006.
I have to admit I was surprised when I saw the numbers, especially this week, when I saw many gangsta wannabees in their Scarface jackets milling around the Municipal Court and Police Department, up to no good, no doubt. But the numbers, as they say, don't lie.
It seems like you cannot turn around without hearing some kind of major crime story during the week, and as one Youngstown cop told me, they deal with enough stuff in a year that would make them ready to join the force in such places as L.A. and New York, which makes for plenty of copy.
The mayor and the chief both said they think one of the reasons for the downward trend is increased community involvement, and indeed, it does seem more people are trying to be involved.
Yet there are also great pockets of apathy in the city, and a block watch leader I spoke with last year said Youngstown residents are the most apathetic she has ever run across.
I think the mayor is responsible for part of the trend. He galvanizes people to become involved, and he was a great hope for change when he was elected. And after a quadruple homicide on the South Side last year, he was the one who called together the brass in the police department and said do whatever you have to to get this under control.
That being said, my one theory about the mayor was that he had underestimated the crime problem when he took office, although I am reminded that the only two changes he made in the cabinet when he took office dealt with the city's law enforcement mechanism, a replacement of Bob Bush -- who by all accounts was liked and respected by most members of the department -- with Jimmy Hughes as chief, as well as sacking former city Prosecutor Dionne Almasy for current Prosecutor Jay Macejko.
But if I was wrong or not, it is clear that Williams has made crime a top priority now, that and his aggressive demolition program, which I think is the best thing he has done as mayor.
The city is at a crossroads, and the number of people who want a clean, safe community is great -- witness the turnout for the 2010 meetings earlier this decade -- but from speaking to people in my travels, I know that patience is wearing thin and that a lot I've spoken to have given up the ghost and left.
The crime problem will make or break the city, and how Williams deals with that in this term, and his next, should he choose to run again (which he probably will) will ultimately be how he is judged.
-- I also hear remarks about the city's young people, especially with trouble at the new city schools this year, with various arrests, fights and other acts of mayhem. Yet at Wednesday's council meeting, I ran into two groups of Chaney High School students who could not have been nicer. Sent to the meeting for a government class, they were well behaved and polite when they asked me for help. They seemed like any normal bunch of kids you would find anywhere, and the good students need to be recognized as well as the bad.
-- Speaking of my crime post above, I have taken a lot of ribbing at the police department because Warren has already recorded a homicide for the year while Youngstown still has a goose egg. I know a lot of cops have gallows humor, but they seem happy that another community is in the spotlight for the time being. I don't, however, think that trend will last, and although it is Utopian to hope I am proven wrong, I do hope that I am.
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