Gun violence topic of Springfield commission discussion

Police chief urges parents to monitor social media use as part of solution to youth violence.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Gun violence in the city became the focus of a discussion at the most recent Springfield City Commission meeting, with officials acknowledging it is a real concern and saying efforts are being made to curb the problem, especially among the city’s youth population.

Springfield resident Pamela Henry raised the topic, addressing the commissioners and telling them she had moved away from the city for about 10 years. Upon her return two years ago, she “saw some really great changes here … but I am alarmed about the rate of crimes involving gun violence in this city. During one week this month, there were four incidences of gun violence. "

Henry cited information included on a website that listed Springfield as ranking among the most dangerous cities in Ohio.

“That is startling to hear,” Henry said. “I would like to know what kind of programs and initiatives we are putting forth to laser focus on this.”

Chief of Police Allison Elliott responded, indicating that so far in 2024, the police have received “88 calls labeled as shots fired and 10 calls labeled as shootings.”

She assured those in attendance that officers are working around the clock to identify those involved in violent crimes, and arrests are being made.

She also cautioned that people who listen to police radio transmissions and start posting to social media can spread misinformation, sometimes creating challenges for investigations.

“We all understand how the game of ‘telephone’ works and it’s not malicious … but it leads to misinformation, and it poses challenges when we are on the investigation,” Elliott said.

She also encouraged parents to monitor the social media engagement of their children.

“Please talk to your children. Sit down and have conversations with your children and grandchildren,” the chief said.

“Look at their social media. If you don’t know what’s going on on your child’s social media, it will be alarming … It’s not to be invasive into your child’s life, but it’s important because there are things happening through the social media chain that are definitely disturbing,” Elliott said.

Law enforcement officials are having conversations with schools and tapping into their resources as well to monitor social media.

“Before you say ‘it’s not my child,’ it can happen to all of us. Be mindful of that,” Elliott said.

She said there were 56 juvenile arrests reported in the last year and 28 juvenile charges related to offenses involving violent crime, gun offenses and theft of motor vehicles.

She also observed that, especially with juvenile offenders, incarceration is not always the best solution.

“We are working closely with Juvenile Court probation and keeping channels of communication open,” she said.

City Manager Bryan Heck pointed to the alliance formed by the city, Springfield City Schools, the Clark County Combined Health District, Opportunities for Individual Change (OIC), Mental Health and Recovery Board, Community Health Foundation, Springfield Foundation, Clark County Juvenile Court and NAACP designed to address juvenile violence.

OIC has received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and has created a violence prevention coordinator position to lead efforts to a three-year effort to develop, implement, coordinate and enhance community programs that will reduce gun violence in Springfield.

Case Western Reserve University is also doing research in conjunction with the grant and will compare similar communities to identify successful approaches to reducing gun violence so that recommendations can follow to help address Springfield’s gun violence issues.

Elliott praised the effort, saying, “This is not just a Springfield challenge, this is a nationwide issue … It’s not just a police matter, not just a law enforcement issue related and I wholeheartedly believe it ‘s going to take a community-wide effort.”

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