'We are in this for the long haul.' Canton police chief addresses eight homicides
- Friday’s fatal shooting on Otto Place NE prompted council to ask Police Chief John Gabbard to provide an update on the department's crime prevention efforts.
- The police chief asked council – and residents – to trust the strategies he has put in place to address and reduce violent crime.
- Canton City Police Department statistics show that overall violent crime has decreased in Canton compared with previous years.
CANTON – Eight people have been killed in Canton in the past four months.
And unlike in past years when it seemed that violent crime was contained to a few pockets of the city, this year’s nearly 20 shootings have occurred in every city quadrant.
“It’s actually alarming,” Councilman Frank Morris, D-9, said, “because it’s everywhere.”
Friday’s fatal shooting on Otto Place NE prompted council to ask Police Chief John Gabbard to provide an update on the department's crime prevention efforts.
Gabbard, a 25-year police veteran who will celebrate his one-year anniversary as chief next week, told council members on Monday that he understands the council’s concern and the negative perception the recent rash of fatal shootings can create. He said Ward 2 and Ward 4, which include most properties east and south of Shorb Avenue and 15 th Street NW, have been overrepresented in the department’s violent crime statistics.
“There is nothing more tragic and that affects our community more than a homicide,” Gabbard said. “You can be doing really well in every other (violent crime) category, and homicide, especially a couple in a row or eight in a quarter, gives that perception that we’re not doing enough.”
But he asked council – and residents – to trust the strategies he has put in place to address and reduce violent crime.
More about Canton crime: Canton's biggest crime problem: Teens with guns
Gabbard reminded council members about last May when he came to the board in a “somewhat crisis mode.”
“We had nine homicides at that time,” Gabbard said. “We had a crisis, in my opinion, as far as youth-involved violence.”
How has the Canton Police Department tried to reduce violent crime?
At Gabbard’s recommendation, council in May 2022 instituted a nightly curfew of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. for residents under the age of 18.
“We’ve never had to go back to someone’s house twice,” Gabbard told council Monday. “We were absolutely focused on contacting parents and finding out, ‘Do you know where your kids are?’ That was successful.”
Gabbard also has since restructured the department to focus on addressing group violence and deterrence measures, including community outreach efforts . He has expanded the department’s use of camera technology and foot patrols, as well as renewed partnerships with other agencies to focus on prolific offenders.
More from Canton police chief: Gabbard explains why it's called 'We Believe in Canton'
Canton ended 2022 with an 11% reduction in overall violent crimes compared with 2021, Gabbard said.
The department also saw a decrease in felonious assaults, domestic violence, assault, threats, robbery and aggravated robbery in 2022 compared with 2021, he said.
“I’m not trying to plant a victory flag or celebrate success, but I want to give you confidence in these strategies,” Gabbard said. “These strategies are the same things I’m looking at prioritizing now.”
How do Canton's 2023 crime stats compare so far?
Canton’s overall violent crime rate so far this year is 8% lower than the average of the past three years for the same time period, Gabbard said.
Canton’s number of gunshot wound victims, shootings into habitations, calls to the department about a shooting or shots being fired, menacing and aggravated menacing, domestic violence, aggravated robbery and robbery and assault crimes also are lower so far this year compared with the year-to-date average for 2020, 2021 and 2022, the chief said. Only felonious assaults and crimes with a firearm are higher.
“What we’ve done overall is working,” Gabbard said. “We are in this for the long haul.”
Gabbard believes bringing the department back to full staffing with 175 officers also would help crime prevention efforts. The force stands at 158 officers , but Gabbard said at least three officers already have notified him that they plan to leave the department by June. A year ago, the department employed 167 officers. Gabbard said recruiting efforts have continued.
Gabbard also pledged to continue talking with council about other ways they could partner to deter crime, including investing in youth and mentoring programs.
Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
On Twitter: @kweirREP
|Crime Category||How much higher/lower 2023 incidents are compared with first quarter average of past three years||Percent difference|
|With A Firearm||+3||+9%|
|Gunshot wound victims||-1.3||-8%|
|Shooting Into Habitations||-9||-32%|
|Calls for service for Shots Fired/Shootings||-62.3||-26%|
|Overall Violent Crime||-78||-8%|