City Cuts Safety Forces Because Of Budget Crunch

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - Tracking down criminals in East Cleveland might be a bit more difficult, and that thought is frightening a lot of the city's residents, 19/43 News' Paul Orlousky reported.

Another budget crunch is behind a cut in safety forces in East Cleveland. A balanced budget was passed on Tuesday night that included the cuts to keep the city out of debt.

East Cleveland has been on life support for a long time. The once vibrant section of Euclid Avenue is lined with vacant building after vacant building, 17 percent of the housing stock stands empty and 18 percent of the population has fled in the past decade.

East Cleveland resident Danny Fields said that his worries come from what he has heard from his four children.

"They come home every day saying that somebody has attacked them," Fields said. "I'm just very concerned right now."

That gets to the question of police protection. One plan targets as many as 13 of the city's 60 officers for layoff -- that's one out of every 5 policemen.

"We may not be able to do many things that we used to do," East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor said.

Onunwor, who is also the city's safety director, said that he hopes cutting overtime and not responding to take minor reports will avert police, fire or EMS layoffs.

"I'm requiring them, please don't lay anyone off," Onunwor said. "Let's cut back in other areas."

The problem is that East Cleveland's gains have for years been dwarfed by its losses. The jobs and the taxes that they generate leave while expenses continue to increase. It is literally a budget being chomped at from both ends.

"Everybody is feeling the pinch," Pentecostal Church of Christ Bishop J.D. Ellis said.

Ellis said that he has taken note of the conditions in East Cleveland both physical and psychological. His economic outlook for the city's citizens in the post-Sept. 11 world is dim.

"They feel it first, they feel it most and they feel it longest," Ellis said.