An Akron councilwoman is asking residents to take action and personal responsibility for a sharp rise in gun violence in the city.
Gun violence has been steadily climbing in Akron for the past three years, reaching levels not seen in recent history, according to a Beacon Journal analysis of shootings reported to the Akron Police Department.
Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Samples, who represents a lower-income corner of Akron with a disproportionate share of gun crimes, penned the open letter Friday.
“We are burying our young at an alarming rate and something must be done about it,” she wrote, telling a Beacon Journal reporter Sunday that her plea to end the violence is “getting pretty repetitive.”
Samples said many residents will not come forward to help police solve crimes unless it’s their families who are the victims. That has to change, she said.
Make it hard for suspects to hide and crime rates will fall, she said.
Samples has spoken before of her support for more cameras to watch high crime areas and better relationships between police and the community. She was inspired to speak up this time, in part, after she watched her father race toward his front door near Joy Park to escape random gunfire a few streets away.
“They’re not even waiting for nightfall anymore,” Samples said. “They’re out there shooting at each other in broad daylight.”
Samples said every shooting needs the level of public concern demonstrated in the high-profile Na'Kia Crawford murder case. It’s “shameful” that the community really rallied when this Black victim’s suspects were wrongly thought to be white, she said.
Race shouldn’t matter, she said. Every case should.
The city has averaged more than 30 homicides annually since 2016. Most are due to gun violence. A little more than halfway through 2020, Akron police already have been handed 26 murders or homicides to solve.
And the most violent months appear to be the most recent. A Beacon Journal analysis of shootings reported by the Akron Police Department shows gun crimes rising sharply.
Police recorded 186 gun-related crimes in the first six months of 2018, then 247 in 2019 and 317 through July 1 of this year. That is a 70% increase in gun crime.
The spreadsheet of gun-related crimes provided to the Beacon Journal through a public records request includes homicides, murders, felonious assaults, any improper discharging of a firearm, aggravated robberies and incidents of criminal damaging or endangering.
With the data covering Jan. 1, 2018 to July 1, 2020, this past May (with 78 gun crimes), June (71) and April (59) were the three highest months for gun violence in the past 2½ years.
“Gun violence has shaped the fabric of our society and our community, by traumatizing millions and imposing substantial financial burdens that we all share when we are left to pick up the pieces,” Samples wrote in her statement. “However, it is up to us to change our own narrative. No, we are not the police, and, no we should not do the policing. However, we can police our children and grandchildren. How? Be showing them the right way, the positive way, the godly way. That is where we change the narrative, and the outcome.”
Five Akron ZIP codes jump out in a geographical analysis of the gun crimes, accounting for more than 70% of all 1,230 gun-related crimes recorded across Akron in the past 30 months. They include 305 shootings in the 44306 ZIP code (East Akron and Middlebury neighborhoods), 211 in 44320 (West Akron), 127 in 44311 (South Akron and Summit Lake), 116 in 44301 (South Akron and Firestone Park) and 111 in 44307 (Sherbondy Hill, formerly known as Lane-Wooster).
Samples has constituents living in three of the five ZIP codes.
“I hear you. I feel your anxiety. I feel your pain,” she wrote to them in the letter. “We must do something about gun violence here in the City of Akron.”
Alluding to President Donald Trump’s pledge to send federal agents into American cities to tamp down rising crime rates, Samples said Akron and its people should not expect an outside solution. State and federal law enforcement should not be “rolling into our city when we can just simply be our own voice, our own activists, and our own vindicators of justice.”
Reach reporter Doug Livingston at email@example.com or 330-996-3792.