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More than 30,000 violent crimes — including homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — were reported in Ohio in 2023.

BY:  Ohio Capital Journal

Many societal structures and systems can be drivers of violent crimes, according to a new report by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

More than 30,000 violent crimes — including homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — were reported in Ohio in 2023.

“Even with laws and penalties such as arrest and incarceration in place, violent crime persists and causes significant harm to victims and communities,” the report states. “Community conditions and societal structures can support or prevent violent crime. Since the research evidence is clear that arrests and incarceration are detrimental to the health of individuals, families and communities, it is important to take an upstream approach for violence prevention.”

There’s lots of opportunities as a state to mitigate violence, said Tonni Oberly, one of the authors of the report, titled Criminal Justice and Health: Social Drivers of Violent Crime.

“We can then also be preventative and treat it as a public health issue by addressing those underlying root causes of violence,” she said.

Violent crimes in Ohio

Ohio ranks 34th in the nation in homicides and 80% were gun-related in 2022, according to the report.

Homicides peaked in Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have not returned to pre-pandemic rates, according to the report. Two of Columbus’ deadliest years on records were 2021 with 204 homicides and 2020 with 175 homicides. Cleveland had 192 homicides in 2020 and 165 in 2021.

Columbus and Dayton both recently had mass shootings in the same weekend.

There were 18,742 incoming domestic violence cases in Ohio in 2014 — a number that has increased almost every year since with the exception of 2020 — and there were 24,534 cases in 2023.

Societal Structures and Systems

Racism, income inequality, zoning and neighborhood planning, gender-related social norms, education, employment, healthcare, housing and criminal justice are all structures and systems that can contribute to violent crime, according to the report.

“All of these structures and systems are also interconnected and interrelated, whether we have typical and current ongoing racist policies that have shaped the way communities are structured and the resources that people have access to,” Oberly said. “All of that aligns with income inequality, with how neighborhoods are shaped, and funding that goes into them, and that, of course, ties into the systems that drives violent crime as well.”

Redlining and the building the Interstate Highway System through communities of color in the 1950s are two examples of historical policies and practices.

“These … resulted in poor community stability, lower home valuations, increased foreclosures and limited economic mobility in majority-Black, Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods,” the report said. “As a result, many of these communities experienced concentrated disadvantage, which includes limited educational and employment opportunities and higher rates of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity that continue today.”

Ohio ranks 30th when it comes to income inequality, which puts people at risk for a shortened life span, poor health and increased neighborhood and interpersonal violence.

The report illustrates that increases in income supports — such as increased minimum wage, Earned Income Tax Credits and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — have been shown to lower violence and result in less firearm homicides.

Zoning and neighborhood planning can also play a role in the amount of violence in a particular area.

The report explained the relationship between alcohol outlet density and violent crime in a neighborhood. Off-premise outlets such as liquor and convenience stores are associated with higher rates of violent crime compared to on-premise outlets such as bars and restaurants.

“Alcohol outlet density is a prime example of how zoning impacts violence,” according to the report. “Due to inequitable zoning codes and weakened political power, communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are more likely to have a high density of alcohol outlets.”

Ohio’s liquor sales have increased 98% in the past two decades while the state’s adult population has gone up 8%. Ohio ranks 34th in the nation for excessive drinking.

Legislative actions

There have been legislative attempts to curb violent crimes.

The DeWine administration gave $20 million in grants to support more than three dozen community-based intervention programs to reduce violence and help victims of crime as part of the Community Violence Prevention Grant Program, according to the report.

An Ohio law will go into effect in August that bans all forms of spousal rape.

DeWine recently signed a bill into law that will go into effect in September that aims to help formerly incarcerated people find stable housing.

House Bill 420 would create the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention within the Ohio Department of Children and Youth which would administer grant programs to reduce firearm violence. Reps. Darnell T. Brewer, D-Cleveland, and Munira Abdullahi, D-Columbus introduced the bill earlier this year, which is in the House Finance Committee.

The report recommends implementing evidence-based firearm safety policies that includes child access prevention laws and firearm licensing laws.

Ohio is not one of the 30 states with child-access prevention laws nor is Ohio one of the 14 states that require checks at the point of transfer for all firearms.

The report also recommends increasing housing affordability, alcohol policies, including density zoning and pricing; and education, employment and criminal justice reform.

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.

Megan Henry

Megan Henry is a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal and has spent the past five years reporting in Ohio on various topics including education, healthcare, business and crime. She previously worked at The Columbus Dispatch, part of the USA Today Network.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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