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Speakers become emotional at hearing about city’s police gun range adjacent Lincoln Heights

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

A Lincoln Heights child holds his ears while on the patio of his home to shut out the noise of gunfire from Cincinnati’s nearby police firing range. Screenshot from Cincinnati City Council hearing

Lincoln Heights residents and even some of the presenters became emotional when speaking to Cincinnati City Council members at an October 6 evening hearing of the council’s Education, Innovation & Growth Committee to discuss the environmental impact of the Cincinnati Police Department Gun Range adjacent the north county, historic Black Village of Lincoln Heights.

Lincoln Heights Vice Mayor Jeannie Stinson said after 74 years of residents there hearing constant gunfire most of the days and at nights, “We want it gone ASAP!”

Lincoln Heights Vice Mayor Jeannie Stinson tells Cincinnati City Councilmembers in no uncertain terms that they want the gun range gone. Provided

Everyone from city and county officials, Cincinnati Police Department officials and experts in environmental issues who spoke at the hearing agreed with residents that the 74-year-old gun range needs to be moved to some remote area, and the discussion now has shifted to funding the relocation.

Assistant Cincinnati Police Chief Teresa said the police department wants to be a part of the solution.

However, police would need about 30 acres of land and a 40,000-square-foot building, Assistant Police Chief Teresa Theetge told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee earlier in September.

Assistant Police Chief Teresa Theetge. Provided

Building a new outdoor range would cost $4.6 million, and the cost of an outdoor one would hit $9.7 million, she said, adding that those costs do not include the purchase of land.

Victoria Parks, Hamilton County Commissioner, said children in the area, which includes the Village of Woodlawn, go to sleep to the sound of gunfire and wake up to it.

Brian Fuller, Mayor of Woodlawn, added the “gunfire does matter to children, their families and the economic development of the village.’’

That sound has been such a part of residents lives that some speakers said they are numb to it.

Lincoln Heights Councilmember Daronce Daniels played videos filmed in the village during daytime to provide a feel of what residents have endured for decades. The shots are constant and rapid, and tormenting. The thought enters one’s mind of how the residents have able to live with this nuisance all these years, and why haven’t local officials done something about it.

Lincoln Heights Village Councilmember Daronce Daniels became emotional in speaking about the police gun range issue his village has dealt with for decades. Provided

Daniels, who is a teacher, told the Cincinnati council, “You are killing our people. Why does my son have to live through this?’’

He read from scientific reports dealing with noise disturbance adjacent neighborhoods, citing the effects on the developing brains of children and the resulting attention deficient disorders, depression, suicides, heart disease, chronic stress, hearing loss, feelings of fear and substance abuse.

Dr. Brian Earl, a University of Cincinnati audiologist who has studied the situation in the villages, confirmed the dangers listed in the reports.

The noise level from the gun range averages about 85 decibels, Earl said, adding that 140 decibels is impossible for people to tolerate.

Lincoln Heights Mayor Ruby Kinsey-Mumphrey spoke in favor of moving the gun range out the community. Provided

“Just think of the difficulty of families trying to have a conversation at the dinner table or children doing their school work at home during these times of school closures due to the COVID pandemic,’’ Earl said. “These noise disturbances have long term impacts for people.’’

County Commissioner Stephanie Summerow Dumas advised there is little time to solve the problem, with police from local jurisdictions using the range 300 days per year. “It’s not about money,’’ Dumas said. “It’s about the health and welfare of these residents.”

Renee Mahaffey Harris, President and CEO, Center for Closing the Health Gap, said area residents have not only had more than 70 years of noise to deal with, but also the silent impact of lead poisoning from the residue coming out of the barrel of the guns when they are fired. Lead poisoning is especially harmful to child development.

Renee’ Mahaffey Harris, President and CEO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap, brought a new angle to the gun range hearing when she discussed the environments hazard of lead residue from the range getting into the air and ground in the area.

“There has been little oversight of the gun range by health officials,’’ she said, noting that there have been 55 environmental violations at gun ranges in Ohio, but no inspections of this facility.

Also attending the hearing were members of The Heights Movement, which opposes the gun range; Cincinnati Human Relations Director Paul Booth; Councilmember Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, who organized the hearing; and Hamilton County Commissioner President Denise Driehaus.

Guest Speakers: Anthony Dukes, Village Manager, Lincoln Heights; Tom Burton, Superintendent, Princeton City Schools; Afrika Williams, parent; Alicia Franklin, parent; Celeste Treece, The Heights Movement; Tara Holland, parent and daycare owner; Ashley Glass, Black Women Cultivating Change; and Dr. Zaria Davis, Pretrial Justice.

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