Cleveland Heights crime rates stable in most categories for 2016
While the number of property crimes in Cleveland Heights continued a four-year downward trend in 2016, the overall number of violent crimes increased last year for the first time since 2012.
Three murders were committed in the city last year, the same as in 2015. Nine rapes were reported, compared to eight the previous year. But there were 83 robberies, up from 53 in 2015; and 55 aggravated assaults, compared to 33 the year before.
Police Chief Annette Mecklenburg said citizens shouldn't be alarmed by the increase. "We'd love the rates to keep going down until we're at zero crime, but it doesn't work that way," she said, emphasizing that it doesn't mean the city’s streets are less safe.
Often, several crimes are solved with a single arrest. For example, one person apprehended after allegedly shooting at cars in the Noble Road area was charged with eight of last year's assaults, Mecklenburg said. And Rise Nightclub & Restaurant, in the lower level at Severance Center (within sight of the police station), was closed following city action in response to several violent incidents.
Further, the chief said, most of the assaults reported over the course of a year are domestic disputes—in many cases at homes where police have answered repeated calls.
Mecklenburg highlighted three important areas of concern:
1. Thefts of freestanding ATM machines at convenience stores and the like. These have taken place in other communities as well, including Beachwood, South Euclid, Willoughby and Cleveland. They often involve two stolen cars; one is used to crash into the store and ram the ATM from the bolts that secure it, then the machine is loaded into the other car for the getaway. Cleveland Heights saw one such theft in 2015, six in 2016 and three already this year.
Mecklenburg said the department is participating in an informal taskforce with agencies across the region. She also has asked city council to pass a law requiring stores to install protective bollards around freestanding ATMs. If it passes, it will take effect in June. It was awaiting a second reading before city council as of mid-March.
2. Aggressive car robberies—also not limited to Cleveland Heights—in which a driver is hit from behind, and, when approached to exchange insurance information, is pulled from the car. There were three in the city last year. "We feel like they're connected, but we haven't been able to [solve it] yet," she said.
3. Opioid drug overdoses. Police responded to least nine overdoses in the city last year—six of them fatal. "In southern Ohio, departments our size are getting four, five, six calls a day. We don't have anything like that, but it's moving this way," Mecklenburg said.
In 2016, all Cleveland Heights police officers began carrying Naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose. It saved three lives last year, Mecklenburg said. The Cleveland Heights Fire Department also deals with such cases, which are counted separately.
The crime data are compiled by the CHPD according to definitions from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting system, and published on the Cleveland Heights city website. The reports include serious "Part I" offenses. They do not include "Part II" minor offenses, such as trespassing or DUI—which the FBI does not seek from local agencies due to cost.
For more information about how the CHPD collects and validates crime statistics, and why the Observer publishes them regularly, see the original article in this series by scanning the QR code or visiting http://tiny.cc/chcrimestats.
Cleveland Heights resident Bob Rosenbaum is co-chair of the Heights Observer Advisory Committee, and is responsible for its advertising sales and market development.