With Hamilton shootings climbing, police now working closely with feds

Other major crimes decline compared to last year, prior years.

Most major crimes in Hamilton were down the first half of this year compared with last year and prior years, but an increase in shootings has police so concerned, they recently signed a pact with federal agencies.

“One area that is not trending down, and in fact is headed in the wrong direction, is our aggravated assaults. That’s largely by gun violence,” said Police Chief Craig Bucheit.

Aggravated assaults through June reached at least a four-year high, largely driven by gunshot wounds. There were 72 this year, compared to 59 last year, 55 in 2019 and 69 in 2018. This year’s assaults were 18% higher than the average of the years 2018-2020.

Bucheit attributed it to gangs, and others who are known to police.

“Just last week we met with the FBI and ATF (the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives),” and a detective will be assigned to their violent-crime task force, he said. That will “bring some additional resources to our community to address these issues.”

It also will help the city bring federal charges, and longer prison sentences, to those committing the shootings, Bucheit said. Often, people committing the shootings are those who have been charged with federal crimes and leave prison after a couple of years, he said.

“This gun violence that’s occurring, it’s a relatively small number of people in our community that are responsible for the vast majority of it.”

Police recently have been in a number of chases and confrontations with people bearing loaded weapons, Bucheit said. On Friday, at around 12:40 a.m., officers responded to a shooting at 1215 S. Second St., where they found an 18-year-old woman killed and two others needing hospitalization for gunshot wounds.

“Being able to partner with federal agencies and look at addressing this by more serious charges, federal charges, which carries the potential for significantly more jail time is something we’re excited about,” Bucheit said.

Police also have assigned extra shifts of patrols in areas that have been “hot spots” for such shootings.

The FBI did not return calls for comment.

Overall crime stats through June

Other major crimes in Hamilton have generally been trending down over the past few years, according to data the Journal-News requested of the police.

“What you see is a pretty substantial decline across the board, in all categories of crime,” Bucheit said. He credited work by police to build relationships with citizens in all neighborhoods as one reason, because it helps them better deal with crimes residents are seeing.

Here are other crime statistics:

  • Murders were steady this year compared to prior years: 2 this year, with 2 every year from 2018 through 2020.
  • Sex offenses were down 44% this year from the prior three-year average: 22 this year, compared with 28 in 2018, 46 in 2019, 43 in 2020.
  • Robberies were down 31% from the three-year average: 32 this year, 68 in 2018, 39 in 2019, 32 in 2020.
  • Drug and narcotic offenses were down 37%: 285 this year, compared with 488 in 2018, 486 in 2019, 387 in 2020. Bucheit said he did not believe a loosening in Ohio marijuana laws was a reason for that decrease.
  • Kidnapping was down significantly: 5 this year compared with 14 in 2018, 18 in 2019, 8 in 2020.
  • Larceny and theft offenses were down 27% from earlier years: 603 this year, compared with more than 800 each of the prior three years.
  • Burglaries and breaking-and-entering also were down 33% from the earlier three years, with 159 this year compared with 197-275 each of the prior years.
  • Motor vehicle thefts were down 9% from the three-year average, with 112 this year, compared with 99 in 2018, 137 in 2019, 132 in 2020.
  • Drug overdoses were down 39% from the three-year average, with 164 this year, 258 in 2018, 312 in 2019, 235 in 2020.

Tense encounters with gun-toters

Just in the past couple of weeks, Bucheit said, Hamilton officers were involved in two incidents where they were chasing suspects.

“The officers were out doing exactly what we want,” he said. “They were checking these areas and looking for people that were potentially involved in some of this violence. They ended up locating these subjects, who take off running. They’re armed, and they’re in the process of taking these guns out while the officers are chasing them.

“This is a very dangerous situation, especially for our officers.”

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