April 25, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain mayor wants community help to reduce gun violence

LORAIN — A comprehensive strategy needs to be employed to reduce gun violence like the kind in an early New Year’s morning homicide, Mayor Chase Ritenauer said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Ritenauer

“I ask for the entire community’s help in this,” he said. “We’ve got to stand together ultimately to fight for our community now and in the future.”

Last Tuesday’s shooting at the Liberty Gas station at 2436 Broadway killed city resident Herman Seagers and wounded three other men. Lorain resident Desmen Noble, who has an extensive criminal record, was arrested Wednesday and charged with the murder of Seagers. Police said the shooting was a spillover from an earlier fight at the Cotton Club nightclub at 1766 E. 28th St.

The Cotton Club was formerly the Flamingo Nite Club. The Flamingo had its liquor permit pulled in 2007 for after-hours drinking and was ordered closed by a judge in 2008 due to frequent crime problems.

Ritenauer said city officials would try to get Ohio’s Division of Liquor Control to pull liquor permits of bar owners whose establishments serve alcohol after closing hours.

Ritenauer said that a small percentage of criminals are responsible for the majority of Lorain’s violent crime. He asked judges to consider higher bonds for defendants with extensive criminal records and stricter sentencing if they are convicted.

“We see the results of low bonds. We see the results of plea bargains,” he said. “We see the results of probation, and we see the results of parole for these types of crimes.”

Ritenauer called for a change in the “anti-snitching” culture, asking residents who witness crimes to better cooperate with police. Police Detective Buddy Sivert, who attended the meeting along with Police Chief Cel Rivera, said criminal suspects out on bond or released on their own recognizance while awaiting trial have a chilling effect on potential witnesses.

“The judges just let them postpone and postpone and postpone and then you start to wonder why people are afraid to testify,” Sivert said. “They know (criminals) aren’t going to stay in jail.”

Rivera said the police department’s Community Impact Unit — plainclothes officers who bypass routine calls to try to find violent criminals — tries to reduce gun and other violent crimes. The department received a combined $300,000 in federal taxpayer money in 2008 and 2009 to reduce gun crime, but hasn’t received any federal money since, Rivera said.

Besides stricter enforcement and sentencing, Ritenauer and Council members said education and mentoring of youths is essential, and they need more involvement from residents in finding solutions.

“There’ve been too many cases of unfortunate situations like this in our community,” said Councilman Tony Richardson, D-at large. “If we don’t stand up, these things are going to continue to happen.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.