Violence, crime, misery, and murder have a color in Cincinnati. And yes, it is black. [DEADLY STREETS HARD TO ESCAPE: Violent death has become frighteningly routine in Cincinnati's most treacherous places,Cincinnati Enquirer, 1-4-2009]:
Violent death has become frighteningly routine in Cincinnati's most treacherous placesENQUIRER ANALYSIS - ROOTS OF CRIME
This has been a public service announcement of SBPDL, re-publishing a past the establishment - protecting Black-Run America (BRA) - don't want you to know.AVONDALEOn a typical school day, children spill from a Rockdale Avenue school and race past a statue of Abraham Lincoln, a gift to the city in 1902.Lorraine Holley hoists her stop sign and defiantly walks into the intersection of Reading Road and Rockdale, constantly turning her head left to right as she ushers the South Avondale Elementary students across the street.She can make sure they cross safely, but Holley worries they may eventually become homicide or gunshot victims like so many others here.Anti-violence advocates across the city say it's time to put down the guns. They say it's time to come to grips with the realities facing young African-Americans - many are dying before their parents.Since 2002, police statistics show, the three most violent city blocks in Cincinnati are in Avondale, one of them this stretch of Reading, followed by a nearby block of Burnet Avenue. A second stretch of Reading, also close by, comes in a close third."Baby, I ain't got a number for you," Holley said when asked how often she's heard gunfire.When it's happened before, she said, she grabbed as many kids as she could and got them to huddle together much like a quarterback would do when planning his next offensive move.But this isn't football.This is life in the 3500 block of Reading Road in Avondale."It's treacherous out there," said Jennifer Williams, director of the anti-violence program Out of the Crossfire.The city appeared on track early in 2008 to further reduce its homicide numbers from 2007, a rate that had peaked with a modern-day record of 89 homicides in 2006.It didn't happen.During the fall, the city's rate jumped ahead of the 68 homicides in 2007 and Cincinnati ended 2008 with 75.Despite the dip from 2006, shootings are still epidemic. For every homicide, between eight and 10 people are shot in the city.During Christmas week, more than six people were shot in the city, said Dr. Jay Johannigman, a trauma surgeon at University Hospital.A couple from West Chester or Montgomery celebrating an anniversary in downtown Cincinnati has little to worry about when it comes to their safety, but residents living in some of the city's worst combat zones have a lot to worry about.They are tired of the violence and many look forward to the day they don't run out of hands and toes when they tally the people they know who have been shot.The three most dangerous areas are all in Avondale, the city's largest African-American neighborhood.Fifty-one homicides, shootings or aggravated assaults have been reported since the beginning of 2002 in the 3500 block of Reading, which begins at the Lincoln statue at Rockdale, police records show.Not far from there, in the 3500 block of Burnet Avenue, 50 homicides, shootings or aggravated assaults were reported during the same period. A bit north, just up the road in the 3700 block of Reading, 40 such crimes were reported in the past six years.The three tough city blocks are home to two elementary schools, South Avondale Elementary, where Holley scoots the children across the multiple lanes of traffic each morning and afternoon, and Rockdale Elementary on Burnet Avenue.The dangerous turf is also near nationally renowned hospitals, University and Children's Hospital Medical Center. Burnet Avenue also offers a home away from home - the Ronald McDonald House - for families whose children must be hospitalized for long periods.Residents tell stories of ducking from gunfire that has killed people at bus stops or people sitting on couches in their homes. Children coming out of stores have also been caught in the crossfire.'We are dying out here'"We are dying out here for nothing," says Mitch Morris, 53 who lives in Avondale. "You don't have to go to Iraq for that. We have a war right here in the city. ... We are at war right now."The blocks are festooned with reminders of the dead.Stuffed teddy bears cover a utility pole outside the Crescent, a sprawling low-income high rise in the 3700 block of Reading.For now, the pole memorializes Travis Williams.
Black America won the 'Battle of Cincinnati' in 2001Written in black marker on the pole are the words, "RIP with God." A Bible is tacked to the old wooden pole, as is an 8-by-10 photograph of Williams and friends.At 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, Williams became the city's 52nd homicide victim of 2008.Earlier that night, Williams told friends at the Crescent it was time to take a break from the streets. He said he was heading to his mother's house in Mount Auburn to chill out for a few weeks.Twenty-three homicide victims later, the year finally ended. Victims ranged in age from 11 weeks to 83 years.Gunfire is the confirmed cause in the deaths of 61 of the 75. Fifty-seven of the homicide victims were African-Americans, like Williams."We cannot continue with this type of slaughter," said Abdul Bilal, a member of the Cincinnati Streetworker Program, which offers outreach at the Avondale Pride Center.The center is next to one of the mean streets, the 3500 block of Burnet. "It's getting old and the people are getting tired," he said of the violence.Williams rolled up a long criminal record with a heavy dose of violence before he died in September. He was accused of knocking the teeth out of someone he pummeled. At 18, he also was accused of pulling a knife and threatening to stab a man if the man didn't buy drugs.He lived and died in front of the Crescent. The group he ran with calls itself the Crack Side."It's not a gang; It's a family," said David Horsley, 21, a Crack Side member and Williams' close friend.Crescent resident Rhonda Beatty said people in the neighborhood were afraid of Williams.Beatty said she walks past the Williams effigy daily without giving it much thought. "That's what happens when you sell drugs," she said. "... Nothing good is going to come of you if you sell drugs."Bernard Irvin, a Woodward High School senior, saw the good in Williams. Williams, he said, praised him for going to school, playing sports and for not running the streets like he did.Williams even grabbed a gun out of Horsley's hands when Horsley intended to shoot someone."He said it wasn't worth it," Horsley said.Caught up in 'wrong things'"He was good at heart. He was just caught up in the wrong things," Irvin said.Those wrong things gave Williams the very strong feeling that he would die - soon."He wasn't afraid; he always knew he'd die," Irvin said.The notion and expectation of death is very real for many in the inner city.Twenty-year-old Nathaniel Sanders knew people were gunning for him.When police found him dying of a gunshot wound in a West End alley on Sept. 26, he was wearing a bullet-resistant vest.No one has been arrested for his death, although many say his death was meant to even a score.Sanders had a reputation as a tough kid in the city's West End, said City Councilman Cecil Thomas, who warned police to look out for him and tried to persuade his parents to get to him before street justice did."This kid had instilled so much fear," Thomas said. "The only justice was going to be street justice and it was obvious that it was coming."Police found Sanders cradled in the fetal position with his hands wrapped around his head. He had been shot in the stomach and the head.Even youths who play it straight, like Irvin, don't think they are invincible. "I know death is going to happen because I live in the hood like everyone else," he said.It's hard to find someone - anyone over 15 - who lives in Avondale who doesn't know someone affected by gun violence.Monique Ingram, 16, can list six people she knows who have been shot. The teen grew up in Avondale, but now lives in St. Bernard. Two of those shot died.Some victims are missed more than others.These days it has been lonely in the 3700 block for Tyron Williams, who said he hung with Travis Williams.Tyron stops by the teddy bear and Bible-covered utility pole that serves as Travis Williams' memorial each day."Is it good up there?" Tyron will ask staring up at the pole. "You all right? Me, I'm just trying to live."Many don't.A brick wall inside one entrance at The Crescent is testimony to the violence in Avondale. Scrawled across the old red brick wall in black ink are the names of those who died."Man I Miss My Dawgz RIP Eugene, Marcus, Ed, Lil Steven Chris B, G-Money, Lil' Matt, $lick NiA centsk, Black Kev, Head, Lil' Kevin, Lil' Dav, MacMal.""People (around here) just adapt to it," said Irvin as he stood in front of the wall.Not long after Williams was gunned down with a bullet to the chest, his friend, Maurice Weaver, 21, was arrested for his murder. Weaver, also a Crack Side member, boasted to other members that when he turned 21, he was going to kill someone.He made good on the promise five days after his 21st birthday.Street codes fall by waysideNeither man observed the old code of the streets.Cincinnati Streetworkers - many of whom once lived the life of drugs deals and robberies - speak out about the dangerous life that saturates blocks like 3500 Reading, 3500 Burnet and 3700 Reading."None of these guys are adhering to the (old) street code," said Bilal. "Hustling back in the day was never meant to be a full-time job; it was something you did part time. These guys are now in it full swing. The street code was in place to keep people from getting killed."The code said don't bring gangs into your neighborhood.The code said family first, not your friends on the street.The code meant taking Sunday off.This year, nine people died on Sundays.The code meant keeping teens out of the game. Ten teens died last year."I'm sick of the streets," Bilal said. "I'm sick of the teddy bears on the street poles. I'm sick of mothers outliving their sons."Children's Hospital Medical Center has seen more than 243 gunshot victims since 2000.University Hospital saw 67 gunshot victims in 2000. None were victims of accidental shootings or self-inflicted wounds. As of Dec. 15, the hospital treated 372 shooting victims in 2008."It's like (the street code is) ancient rules now," Bilal said. "The code was to keep all the negative stuff out of the communities."That negative stuff is nowhere more apparent than along the 3500 block of Burnet.A disrespectful comment or gesture at worst would end in a fist fight back in Rev. Peterson Mingo's day when he ran with the Lucky 13 gang in Avondale in the 1960s. Today, it tends to end in a gun battle.The corner parking lot of a convenience store is ripe pickings for people looking to peddle dope or to even a score.For now, at least, it is the narrative and the norm of the street, says Robin Engel, a University of Cincinnati professor who has teamed up with the Cincinnati Police Department for the anti-violence program, the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence."Right now, the code of the street is if someone disrespects you, you have to resort to violence," she says.Dead, young men in 20sOf the 75 homicide victims in 2008, 28 were between the age of 20 and 29.The way Tony Calhoun, 33, sees it that can also be pretty fatalistic for young black men.Calhoun, who is unemployed most of the time and has a criminal record, said the lack of jobs gives young men and those his age little hope.With nothing to do, they congregate, many times in the 3500 block of Burnet.He and friend Benjamin Smith, 27, were there one evening last month."Stand here long enough and you'll see some action," Smith said.Both say they know dozens of people who have been shot, many right on that corner."It's an everyday thing," Calhoun said. "You get used to it."As the two spoke, darkness fell over the area. Instead of the crowd thinning for dinnertime, it swelled."The majority of the problems here is that there is nothing to do," Calhoun said. He admitted he was bored and walked down to the end of Burnet to check in with others in the neighborhood."Put everyone in one spot and that just gives you more reasons to mess with folks. That's why stuff happens the way it does."People are getting shot because they have nothing to do. They have no outlet. No place to chill out and relax or a place to have something constructive to do."That's why many join gangs.Police have identified 48 different groups that they describe as violent.An analysis of 83 homicides between June 2006 and June 2007 suggested that in 72 percent, the victim or the offender was a member of a street group.Calhoun was in a gang from the age of 16 to 21. The gang fell apart with the beating death of someone in the West End.That was enough for Calhoun."They stomped him in the face until his face cracked," he said.Irvin, the Woodward senior, hopes to leave this all behind this fall. He's thinking about colleges in Denver, Connecticut and Texas. "I'm trying to get as far away from here as I can."Hopefully these guys out here will let me live long enough. My fear is that these guys will stop me before I get a chance to make a change."Three Avondale blocks top list of most violentRife with gunfire, three Avondale blocks top Cincinnati's deadliest streets. These blocks are home to two schools and are near world-class hospitals.Where the crime is most concentratedThree city blocks, all in Avondale, are the deadliest in the city. At The Enquirer's request, Cincinnati police tracked homicides, shootings and aggravated assaults over the past six years. The three blocks had a total of 141 such crimes. The central part of the city (right) has the highest concentration. The darker the circle, the more dangerous the area. The map lists all 125 street blocks that have had at least 10 acts of such violence in the past six years. The No. 1 deadliest spot is the 3500 block of Reading Road, with 51 such acts of violence.