Youngstown chief cites community policing for decrease in murders

Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees said the city has recorded 18 murders this year, compared to 23 in 2015

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – As another year winds down, Youngstown’s police chief says the city’s crime rate continues on its downward trend. He hopes it’s a trend that continues into 2017.

Chief Robin Lees said the city has recorded 18 murders this year, compared to 23 in 2015.

“We’re still a little bit down from last year’s numbers, certainly not where we’d like to be, but it shows improvement,” he said.

It’s a far cry from the record of 68 homicides recorded in Youngstown in 1995.

Lees said nearly half of the murders that have occurred this year can be tied directly to drugs.

“We’ve got to maintain that effort to prevent and to intercede where we have, you know, drug activity or drug trafficking,” he said.

Lees credited the decrease with the return of community-based policing this year, as well as continued involvement with the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Lees said the initiatives have boosted relationships between officers and the neighborhoods that they patrol.

He admits, however, that it’s difficult to know how many crimes were prevented or criminals taken off the streets before they could cause any more problems.

Lees said he plans to expand successful programs, like CIRV, next year. He also plans to increase his manpower levels, hoping to add at least another half-dozen officers to the ranks in early 2017.

“We’ve got a lot of young officers who are enthusiastic. They got out there every day. There’s rarely a day that goes by that our officers are not making a proactive stop and seizing guns or drugs,” he said.

Final crime figures from 2016 won’t be ready until February, when they’re sent to the FBI.

Wednesday, Lees also said fatal accidents have decreased. He attributes the drop to the use of radar speed cameras.

Since officers started using them about a year-and-a-half ago, there hasn’t been a fatal crash along I-680 in the city.

The chief says the effort to reduce speeds on the freeway has also helped reduce overall car crash figures by about 25 percent.