West End shootings: residents frustrated, youth practices relocated for safety

Cameron Knight
Cincinnati Enquirer

Leaders in West End have decided, at least for now, it's not safe to hold youth sports practices there.

Three West End youth programs have temporarily canceled or moved their practices outside of the neighborhood due to a recent surge in shootings.

A person has been shot in the West End, on average, every other day for nearly four weeks, according to Cincinnati police data. For the first eight months of this year, the neighborhood averaged fewer than three people shot each month. Since Sept. 1, 14 people have been shot there.

"It's rough out here," said Chris Griffin, president of the West End Community Council. "The situation in West End had been very disheartening ... Residents have had enough."

West End

Griffin, who lives in Park Town Cooperative Homes and works as a teacher at the Academy of Multilingual Language Studies, said residents and community leaders are working closely with City Council and the police department to address the issue, but there doesn't seem to be a straight-forward solution.

He said the community is working hard, as well, to address the root causes of the violence. He said concentrated buildings and blocks of poverty in the West End have been a longstanding problem. While this isn't the sole reason for the violence, Griffin said, it is a factor.

He said the neighborhood's Lil Senators youth football team and Q-KIDS dance team have canceled their practices. The FC Cincinnati youth soccer team has moved the location of their practices due to the recent violence.

The TQL Stadium, home to FC Cincinnati soccer in West End can be seen from the 6th floor of Christ Hospital, May 25, 2021.

"The safety of our young players, parents, coaches, and staff is our top priority and we have been closely monitoring our youth soccer practices in the West End in the wake of rising gun violence," said a statement from FC Cincinnati on Wednesday.

The soccer team was practicing at Laurel Playground three days a week. Several of the shootings have taken place within a few blocks of the playground.

"Because our youth soccer practices end at 7:30 p.m. on weeknights, not on game days when we host a large-scale event and have a stronger police presence in the neighborhood, we decided to move our practices to an alternate location," the statement said.

Practices will take place at LeBlond Recreation Center in Riverside, about four miles away.

West End is home to about 6,600 people.

Recent victims of violence in West End include a 10-year-old, a 13-year-old and an 18-year-old. Dorian Williams, 25,was killed in a triple shooting Monday. Raymone Turner, 37, who was injured in that shooting died later, police said Thursday. 

West End is not alone when it comes to the continuing violence in Cincinnati, which has still not fully recovered from the unprecedented violence of 2020.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Evanston saw two fatal shootings within 24 hours. A 16-year-old was killed there Wednesday.

Police are investigating a shooting on Jonathan  Avenue between Greenlawn Avenue and Montgomery Road. The shooting happened  Wednesday afternoon.

A juvenile suffered serious injuries after being shot in Bond Hill on Wednesday.

East Westwood leaders pleaded with City Council for help after two juveniles were shot at a convenience store in that area over the summer.

So far this year, there have been 73 homicides in the city and, as of Monday, there had been 323 shootings, according to Cincinnati police data.

Cincinnati police have acknowledged the spike in West End, and said they are dedicating all their resources to investigating the homicides, but have declined to go into details about what they think might be behind the rise in shootings.

Homicides are historically high this year. The city is on pace to have more homicides this year than any other with the exception of 2020. If the homicides continue at this pace, the city could have 90 by the end of the year.

Since 1959, there have only been two years in which the city has had more than 80 homicides: 2006 with 88 and 2020 with 94.

In the five years prior to the pandemic, Cincinnati averaged 68 homicides a year.

On a national level as well, shootings and homicides are higher now than they were last year, according to a report from USA TODAY. Through Sept. 2, more than 13,700 people had been shot dead in the United States in 2021, a 13% increase compared to the same period in 2020 and a nearly 37% increase compared to that same period in 2019, according to statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive.

While homicides and shootings in Cincinnati remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, crime is down in the city in 2021 compared to 2020.

Cincinnati launched several initiatives last year to combat gun violence including the reformation of its gun crimes task force, an expansion of the Shot Spotter gunshot detection system and increased federal prosecutions of those who commit gun crime.

On Sept. 11, Cincinnati police reported crime statistics comparing 2020 to 2021. Homicides are down 15%, robberies were down 25% and aggravated assaults were down 4%. Overall property crime, like burglaries and thefts, is down 11%.

Homicide totals in Cincinnati