CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The New Year began with deadly violence on Cleveland City streets. This after wrapping up what was one of the most murderous years ever.
Now, a long-time city leader is speaking out and says the Cleveland Police Department doesn’t have a game plan to deal with the increased violence.
“When you have to have elderly Black women carrying guns to go to a store or to walk down the street that is absolutely outrageous,” said Cleveland Councilman Mike Polensek, who represents Ward 8, has been a council member for four decades. “I’m angry. I’m madder than hell as to what I see happening.”
Councilman Polensek is responding to the city having 185 murders as of December 20th, making 2020 one of the most deadly years on record in recent history. Those figures are according to Cleveland.com. The city recorded 195 murders in 1982 when the population was much larger.
“On New Year’s Eve across the entire city, people [were] just standing outside shooting off automatic rifles, semi-automatic rifles,” said Polensek. “Unless I missed something you would swear we’re annexed by Afghanistan.”
And on the first day of the New Year there was more gunfire - deadly gunfire this time. Cleveland Police confirm there was a murder near the intersection of I-90 and West 98th Street.
The victim crashed the vehicle into the bridge overpass. Bullet holes riddled the passenger side of the person’s SUV.
“So when you look at our population today - under 400,000 - and the number of homicides we have – we have a higher per capita homicide rate than Chicago, New York and Los Angeles,” Polensek said. “If that doesn’t shock you I don’t know what will.”
Polensek said 2020 was the perfect storm for violence. Coronavirus sickened 10% of the police force. And increased racial tensions nationwide also put pressure on officers.
“The criminal element is taking advantage of the pandemic. We all know that,” said Polensek. “They don’t believe they’re going to get arrested – and if they do get arrested they believe they’re going to get released or that the police are not going to engage them as they once did for fear of being accused or charged with something.”
On top of that, Polensek said Cleveland is paying a terrible price for city hall leadership he said is in denial. His confidence in the police command and Police Chief Calvin D. Williams is at an all-time low.
“Whether it be the May 30th fiasco [or] the riot downtown where he was totally unprepared, to me that reflects everything we’re dealing with: unpreparedness, lack of planning, lack of foresight. We’re seeing it in the streets,” said Polensek.
Cleveland Police responded to Councilman Polensek’s comments by saying:
“Cleveland and urban areas across the United States have been severely affected by skyrocketing violent crime statistics including shootings and homicides. While many of the cases can be traced to incidents of drug and gang activity, the exact cause of the drastic increase is unknown. Investigators continue to work hard every day to solve cases while policing in unprecedented circumstances in times where situations and resources change rapidly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cleveland Division of Police remains committed to working to reduce incidents of violent crime, homicides and gang activity and will continue to do so with the help of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners. The combination of resources and partnering of agencies has resulted in significant arrests. In many cases, tips from the community have led to these significant arrests. Members of Law Enforcement continue to encourage citizens to report criminal activity to police and remind members of the public that they can do so anonymously.”