YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Heading into his second year as Youngstown’s police chief, Robin Lees is still working to implement a new division he had wanted in place in 2014.
Lees said he expects to hire in the immediate future to help form the Community Policing Unit.
The new program will have seven officers with one assigned to each of the city’s seven wards. Last fall, council members set aside $200,000 dollars for the program, enough to pay for four of the new positions
Although community policing has been tried in the past, current staffing levels only allow officers to handle more immediate issues.
“We are a 911-driven system. We just don’t have the time to put in on some of those festering problems that occur in the neighborhoods that then lead to the larger problems that come to our attention,” Lees said.
When Lees took over a year ago, the city had 152 officers, but that number has since fallen. The chief says he’d like to increase the force to 164 in part by reducing the number of captains from five to three.
“To me, that translates into service on the bottom end where we will be able to bring on patrol officers to provide service at the street level,” Lees said.
Another program that is already in place has helped to reduce violence. Lees said a homicide review program that examines cases that are 24 hours old has been successful.
“We bring in everybody from the various bureaus and divisions within the police department as well as our task force officers and prosecutors, and we sit down and we go over the facts of the case,” Lees said.
The city recorded 19 murders in 2014, the lowest rate in more than a decade.