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Cleveland communities say street racing problem is out of control; police department having trouble solving the problem while understaffed

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 7:10 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Are there not enough police officers to patrol and possibly prevent major damage to Cleveland neighborhoods?

That’s the complaint from several city leaders who spoke in a meeting about staffing issues within the police department this week.

Thursday, 19 Investigates uncovered just how bad the street racing problem’s gotten on the East side.

RECKLESS DRIVING PROBLEM: East side communities say their safety is at risk as drivers pick random spots in the middle of the road to do donuts and others speed down the road, often losing control, causing damage to businesses.

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Thursday, July 22, 2021

Community members say their safety is at risk as drivers pick random spots in the middle of the road to do donuts and others speed down streets, often losing control and causing doing damage to businesses.

Angelique Patton says the disruption is constant, and driving along Lee Road near the intersection of Harvard Avenue, the damage is undeniable.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable,” she said.

Fences are smashed in. City light poles are leaning, and pylons are completely taken out.

Councilman Joe Jones says the damage has all been caused by drivers who don’t have any consideration for those who live in the city.

“This year, they are starting to just tear up the entire area,” Jones said. “As citizens, we don’t feel safe! We’re paying for a service that we are not getting.”

Within hours after our request for an interview with Jones, he gathered a large group of residents who want to be heard.

Not only has Marlon Dickson noticed the reckless driving, but he also says portions of the fencing around his church continue to be knocked out.

“We replace it, and it’s torn down again,” he said.

Jones believes the drivers act out in the Lee Harvard neighborhood because police aren’t present enough to deter their bad behavior.

“If we have [police presence], it has shut down a lot of the problems and issues we are seeing right here,” Jones said.

So why don’t the police commit a cop to constantly patrol the area?

“You very rarely see them in this Harvard area,” Dickson said.

This week, when Jones confronted Chief Calvin Williams about the issue, the chief acknowledged it but said the problem is unfortunately not limited to Jones’s Ward.

And in Wednesday’s Safety Committee meeting, Williams’s staff revealed a major contributor to the struggle for control on the East side.

“The commander has to delegate his resources,” Williams said.

According to data from the city, CPD is down 187 patrol officers. That’s almost 15 percent of the positions budgeted for this year.

That means the commander has a lot fewer bodies to work with.

“He does everything he can to hit those hot spots as much as we can,” Williams said.

Patton said, “That’s not protecting us; that’s not serving us!”

Residents say they don’t care how it happens; they just want to see a solution.

“Whatever you are down, you need to pick up something in another area,” Patton said. “Whatever needs to be done, do the work.”

“If you don’t have the law enforced, then people do whatever they want,” Dickson said.

During the discussion about the street racing problem on Wednesday, the city’s safety director touted an incident over the weekend. He says officers seized several dirt bikes and four-wheelers driving recklessly on these streets. We’ve requested more information on that case but haven’t heard back from the city yet.

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