Happy New Year
On behalf of my family and my office I hope all of you had a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and a joyous Kwanzaa. The history and traditions of our community run very deep this time of year. I wish to thank all of the neighborhood institutions and organizations who have been so vital to our community this past year.
We all know that Christmas and early in the new year are giving times of the year and I hope you remember all the non-profits in the Ward 8 community from our places of worship, to the Salvation Army Temple Corps, the FoodBank, the Collinwood Food Pantry, and the Collinwood Ministries who daily help the less fortunate and needy of our community. My sincere appreciation for all they do for the community in providing food, clothing, family services, recreation or just a place of comfort or companionship. I urge all residents to continue to support their work through monetary donations or by volunteering.
To say the least, 2017 was a very challenging year. We saw progress in many areas and yet, we were constantly confronted with an increase in violent crime, in our community and city-wide. As I write this article the city has already experienced 128 homicides for the year. That doesn’t take into consideration the felonious assaults (crimes committed with a weapon), burglaries, robberies, car thefts, break-ins, etc. It is extremely troubling to realize that Cleveland now has the distinction of having a higher per capita, based on population, homicide rate than Chicago or New York. Law enforcement officials will tell you that the two greatest deterrents to any criminal activity in the city is an engaged citizenry, where residents and businesses look out for one another and willingly report incidents of criminal activity, and police patrolling the streets.
In Ward 8, I would tell you that, for the most part, we have an engaged citizenry. I know that for I see the police brevity reports and hear daily from residents who contact my office to let me know what is going on around them or on their street. Could we have more engagement? Of course, that is something we can all continue to work on. However, what has become most critical, not only in our own community but city-wide, is the lack of basic police patrols and visibility.
The Cleveland Police Department is at a critically low-level of sworn police officers. We are down over 450 from what we once were just fifteen years ago. Yet, as we all know, violent crime has not diminished and we all see growing numbers of “gun packing thugs” terrorizing and victimizing our citizens and local businesses alike.
We were promised in 2016, with the passage of Issue 32, the 25% increase in the city’s income tax, that there would be a significant ramp up in the Division of Police, i.e. more police on the streets. The City raised $93 million with the new tax and yet, only set forth in the 2017 budget the additional hiring of 65 basic patrol officers. Mind you, that number has already been exceeded by the number of officers who have left the department this year due to attrition. You don’t have to be a mathematician to understand that the Administration and Command Staff totally miscalculated the number of officers they would need in 2017 and beyond, and how many would be retiring this past year.
If the citizens know that there is a lack of police presence in our communities and neighborhoods – then so do the criminals and potential law breakers. That’s why I have asked Mayor Jackson to recognize and to understand that we are in a state of emergency in the city with regard to violent criminal activity. I asked him in a letter dated December 20, to ask the Governor and the State Attorney General for help with the assigning of officers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol to augment and support the Cleveland Police Department so that we could collectively place more offices on the street until future police hiring classes are brought on board. As of this writing, I have yet to receive a reply from the Administration.
If officials at City Hall think that this problem is going to go away on its own – I have news for them. It is not going to go away unless we do something drastic. We need more law enforcement officials on our streets NOW – not six months from now or at the end of 2018. Residents are alarmed city-wide and more and more over-the-counter retail businesses are operating behind two inches of clear Plexiglas in fear of the criminal element coming into their stores with guns drawn. How tragic.
With all the national news recognizing Cleveland and its neighborhoods as a comeback city - how are we to maintain that status with this growing violent crime problem. The answer is clear – we will not. It is a given that residents and businesses will talk with their feet and will disinvest in the city as they become more and more discouraged or fearful. We are paying more for income tax in the City of Cleveland and overall taxes in Cuyahoga County – than ever before. We deserve basic services and police protection. I urge you all to let your voices be heard. It cannot be business as usual. Time is of the essence.
I look forward to working with all of you in 2018 to build upon our successes but also to join together to address the challenges and problems that lie ahead.
Stay warm and be careful of the ice. May you and yours have a happy, safe and prosperous New Year. Feel free to contact me. I may be reached at my office at (216) 664-4236 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael D. Polensek
Michael D. Polensek
Michael D. Polensek
Resident of neighborhood since 1956. Worked on East 185th street since 1970.