Dayton homicide rate rising

Increase comes despite injuries from gun crime going down.

Four homicides last week have pushed Dayton’s total to 25 with 4½ months left in 2016, putting the city on pace for 40 — well above the 27-to-29 range of the past four years.

The 25 total does not include three separate homicides that were ruled justifiable by Montgomery County prosecutors. Dayton police say the increase has come even as violent crime and gun crimes with injury have trended downward.

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“Homicide is the very tip of the tip of the iceberg of violent crime,” Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl told this news organization. “There’s no repairing of harm done here. This is a permanent loss of life, so it certainly is crucial that we do everything we can to reduce homicides to the lowest possible level.”

Biehl said there’s been no links among the Dayton killings and no serial offenders identified. Many have been gang- or drug-related. Some are classified as domestic violence cases. Muhammad Shabazz Ali, 61, is accused of shooting to death three people in an Oxford Avenue home last week upon being released from Grandview Hospital after a mental health evaluation.

“The homicides have really gone across the spectrum in terms of who was involved and the circumstances in which are involved,” Biehl said. “So there’s no common theme emerging out of this spike in homicides.”

Dayton police statistics show that the city has had 99 violent injuries from firearms in the past 12 months, down from 110 in the 12 months before that. The chief said shootings turn into fatals for a variety of reasons.

“One of the most important (factors) is going to be proximity, if it’s a firearm use,” Biehl said. “The greater the distance, the less likely somebody is going to be hit by a bullet. It has to do with caliber. It has to do with how many times a person is shot.

“It has to do with where somebody is shot in their body. It has to do with how quickly or not they get emergency medical services. So there’s a lot of factors that drive whether a gun crime with injury becomes a homicide.”

The jump in homicides hasn’t been unique to Dayton. Trotwood — which had two double homicides earlier this year —has had seven homicides by gun, including one Tuesday, and a vehicular homicide investigation. There have been three homicides in Harrison Twp. in 2016, two in the past week.

Countywide, the coroner’s office (which does count justifiable killings) reports 39 homicides through Aug. 16 — a pace that would result in 62 for the year. That’s more than the 55 homicides in Montgomery County in 2013, the 42 in 2014 and the 49 in 2015.

“The number of homicides in our community is disappointing and alarming,” Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck Jr. said. “The number of homicides across the nation seems to be on an upswing after years of declines.

“The homicide problem is very complicated, and like many things in life, there is no one cause or a simple solution. Whether these homicides are gang related, drug related, or domestic violence related, there is no ‘one size fits all’ fix.”

Montgomery County homicides, 2016

Heck said the cures to the homicide problem are as varied as its root causes.

“The economy could be better; the unemployment rate could be lower; there could be better job training programs for youth; there could be better re-entry programs for those returning to our community from incarceration, and there could be better drug prevention and treatment programs,” Heck said. “All of these could contribute to fewer homicides. Still, those who commit homicide must be held strictly accountable, and there must be serious consequences and punishment.”

Biehl said the trend is disheartening and discouraging, but that the killings are not random acts.

“It is absolutely tragic that there has been this increase in homicides this year,” Biehl said. “Just generally speaking, there’s just a lot of guns in this country, just a lot of guns out there in the public domain so I don’t think it’s a challenge for somebody to get hold of a firearm if they are seeking one.”