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Akron cracking down on crime

5/17/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron is stepping up its efforts to crack down on crime and deter criminal activity in local neighborhoods.

During a press conference held May 10, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic announced that for about one month now, the Akron Police Department has partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Summit County Drug Unit, the METRO Swat Team, the Safe Streets Task Force and the U.S. Marshals Service Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force in a coordinated effort to significantly reduce crime. The Summit County Sheriff’s Office also is involved, and representatives from those agencies attended the conference.

“All of these agencies have to work together in partnership to increase enforcement, share information and reduce crime,” said Plusquellic. “People in Akron need to know that we are taking this [crime] seriously. We are doing everything we can.”

Plusquellic added that while the agencies have often worked together in the past, this new effort is “a step up.”

Recently, during a three-day period, that shared effort resulted in the arrest of 32 suspects and the seizure of 324 grams of crack, 40 grams of heroin and 1,633 grams of marijuana, as well as 27 guns and $23,608 in cash, according to Plusquellic.

The suspects are facing a total of 87 felony charges and 25 misdemeanor charges, and federal partners in the effort are reviewing each case to determine if federal charges are warranted, according to Akron Police Chief James Nice.

“This was strike one, and we will continue to hit like this,” said Nice.

Nice added that local law enforcement officials are working with federal officials in the hopes of getting stronger sentences for criminals in an effort to deter criminal activity and to “keep the bad apples in jail.”

“We want the public to know that Akron will not handle these criminals with kid gloves,” added Plusquellic.

Toward that effort, about 20 Akron police officers have been deputized as federal agents, which will help to produce stiffer penalties against criminals, according to Nice.

Also during that recent three-day period of stepped up enforcement, 40 law enforcement officers and agents teamed up to walk the streets in the Copley Road area to talk to residents about recent shootings, including the March 30 shooting of 17-year-old Willie Brewer III on Copley Road.

Plusquellic said this effort included visiting more than 250 residences and businesses in the area to gather information on criminal activity, which resulted in numerous tips that are currently being pursued.

Nice added law enforcement will be stepped up in Akron’s hot spots, which he identified to include the Copley Road area, East Akron, Lover’s Lane and Cole and Arlington avenues. He also said the officers would focus on violent crime and weapons possessions.

Nice said this increased enforcement is being made possible through a Safe Streets grant facilitated by Todd Wickerham, of the FBI.

Plusquellic also announced at the press conference that Akron’s focus on criminal activity has tripled the number of methamphetamine busts as compared to the same time last year. Plusquellic said that last year, the total number of meth busts was 77, and so far this year Akron’s narcotics unit has shut down 70 meth labs. 

“Our narcotics officers were recognized for the strong, aggressive work they do in Cleveland’s Scene magazine,” said Plusquellic. “Our narcotics officers are some of the best in the country.”

Nice stressed “crime in Akron is not higher than last year.” Violent crime is down through the end of April, and homicides (six to date) are on pace with last year, he added.

“We are starting out slow, and we want to keep it that way,” said Nice.

While the focus on law enforcement is increasing, Plusquellic said still more is needed to stamp out crime.

“The police cannot do everything,” he said. “We need area residents to provide information to police to help them track down these criminals.”

Plusquellic asked area residents to “step forward and help people in your neighborhoods.”

Ophelia Averitt, president of the Akron branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told city officials at the meeting that, “People are in tune with what you are trying to do” and that “block clubs can find out what is going on in our community.”

During the recent walk-though of the Copley Road area, officers distributed a flier containing telephone numbers of various agencies serving as contacts where residents can share information on criminal activity.

According to that flier, anonymous tips about criminal activity will be accepted at: www.akroncops.org; APD’s Detective Bureau at 330-375-2490, Gang Unit at 330-375-2911 or Anti-Violence Bureau at 330-375-2602; Summit County Sheriff’s Office Drug Unit at 330-643-2170; Summit County Crime Stoppers at 330-434-2677; the FBI at 330-535-6156; ATF at 216-573-8100; U.S. Marshalls Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force at 866-492-6833; or DEA at 216-274-3600.

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