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‘It’s personal’: Cleveland mayoral candidate Sandra Williams details plan to fight violent crime

State Senator Sandra Williams details her plans for curbing crime, for the lakefront, and job creation
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 2:58 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One of the top issues for Cleveland voters when deciding on the next leader of the city is reducing crime and making Cleveland safe.

For Mayoral Candidate Sandra Williams, fighting violent crime is personal.

“I’m running because I care about the city of Cleveland,” says the current state senator.

But the Cleveland Williams’ knows, and loves is changing. As a little girl, she grew up near East 123rd and Buckeye.

“I used to leave my mother’s door unlocked all the time to walk to the park. We had stores in our neighborhood that sold fresh food. All types of small businesses in the neighborhood,” Williams remembers, but says now those streets are drastically different.

“You can’t even sit on your porch in many cases. My niece was the victim of violent crime.”

Her niece was shot as she sat on her front porch in the Kinsman neighborhood. Williams’ nephew was shot, just sitting in a restaurant off Miles on his first date.

Both of her family members survived. As mayor, Williams’ number one priority on fighting violent crime is working on a state and federal level to gain more local control to get guns off the streets. She also wants a more targeted approach to violent crime and gangs, pointing to the PIVOT, or Place-Based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories program, used in the Cincinnati Police Department since 2016.

“With the PIVOT program, not only do the investigators go to the crime scene, they also start staking out the organized crime units that we have in our community,” explains Williams.

The goal is to thwart any retaliatory violence that may come next.

“We’re going after their comfort spaces, where they hang out - a bar, a laundromat, corner store - wherever they do their business,” says Williams. “People who own these properties who know or should know this is where crime is happening, I’m going after them as well.”

Williams says that using this approach in Cincinnati, the city saw a 68% reduction in violent crime.

As a former corrections and parole officer, Williams also acknowledges the incredibly demanding and difficult job of Cleveland police. “I want to make sure they’re respected, that their morale is up,” she says.

If elected, Williams says her administration will have to do a better job with recruiting and hiring police officers to help with staffing shortages. She says there needs to be a more targeted approach to recruitment.

“Because of what’s happening in our community and police relations, people are hesitant. But if you don’t want somebody patrolling your streets, how about you join the team and fix the problem with me,” says Williams.

In 2015, Governor John Kasich appointed Williams to a task force to improve community and police relations after the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

“We have put over twenty-five standards in place. Cleveland has not adopted any of those standards,” says Williams, adding that, as mayor, she would take another close look at that issue.

Training, she says, will be another big component to her plan to improve policing.

“We have to make sure we are paying for them to go to actual training, which we are not giving them a lot of right now.”

Since 2007, Williams has represented Cleveland in Columbus. She is currently a state senator for Ohio’s 21st District, which includes the eastern parts of Cleveland, like Batenahl, Shaker Heights and University Heights. She says her experience with the state legislature and her relationships with state leaders will be key, as mayor: “It’s about bringing people together and I’ve worked with entities to do this already,” says Williams.

She points to her work, securing $350 million dollars for the city of Cleveland to clean up Brownfields, vacant and contaminated sites, often old manufacturing sites, that have now become eyesores.

“There have been so many companies who’ve wanted to expand their operations in the city of Cleveland and the city has not been able to find them enough parcels available,” says Williams.

Her economic development plans also include our underutilized Lakefront. She says she’ll wait to hear what engineers say regarding more specifics on the future of Burke Lakefront Airport, but:

“I would love to just develop it and make it office space, maybe low rise living, a place where we have restaurants and entertainment for use to actually enjoy the water,” says Williams.

Her vision for job creation includes training and better networking. Williams says there are five thousand jobs available in our region and as a mayor, she will work to be a better matchmaker for residents and these companies.

“I know this city can be a great city. It just needs a leader.”

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