• Thu. Mar 30th, 2023

Members of The Heights Movement members are shown in front of Lincoln Heights Municipal Building. Photo provided by The Heights Movement

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Lincoln Heights and surrounding communities are in the opening moments of a movement to remove the Cincinnati Police Department target range at 10139 Spartan Drive in Evendale that has been in operation for the last 80 years and is in earshot of the community.

“There has been no discussion of recompense or repair for the emotional, economic, mental and psychological damage that has been inflicted upon the residents of the village,” said Carlton Collins, president of The Heights Movement, which is leading the effort to have the gun range relocated. “Also, it is our belief that no negotiations should, under any circumstance, advance without deliberate, explicit and restorative reinvestment into the communities that have been harmed by this 80-year violation of environmental, civil, human and property rights by the Cincinnati Police Department.’’

Speakers at a rally hosted by The Heights Movement at the Hamilton County Courthouse were, from left, Renee Mahaffey-Harris, CEO of Center for Closing the Health Gap;’ Carlton Collins, president of The Heights Movement; Alicia Franklin, Lincoln Heights resident, and Celeste Treece, Ohio Organizing Collaborative; and Cam Hardy, Better Bus Coalition. Photos by Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney

Their effort has a partner on Cincinnati City Council, new Councilwoman Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, who is calling for a public hearing with the parties involved to meet to resolve the problem at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, October 6, at City Hall. Mayors of neighboring communities also have begun a new push to have the range removed.

Cincinnati 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.

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.

Cincinnati police said they have tried to be good neighbors at the range over the years. The facility is used 300 days a year and provides nearly 50,000 hours of training for officers annually.

It’s also used for police canine training.

Police have built a large concrete wall and limit shooting hours, said Theetge.

The gun range operates Monday through Saturday and gunshots can be heard from as early as 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in accordance with Ohio law. This is also the site where CPD   completes K-9 training for the department. Guns that are fired range from handguns to shotguns to AR-15 style rapid-fire weaponry and can be heard loudly echoing through the Village of Lincoln Heights, City of Lockland, and the City of Woodlawn.

“It is customary for children and adults to hear gunfire and be completely unmoved by its duration or ferocity given its normalization,’’ said members of The Heights Movement,

They say this range, which has continued to operate despite ongoing noise complaints and repeated requests for removal has residual impacts on the surrounding communities of Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn, which its land borders, as well as Lockland and in various parts of Evendale, Reading and Wyoming. In Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn, which are primarily African American, it literally sounds like a “war zone” as there have, seemingly, been no restrictions placed on the types of guns CPD officers can fire or limits on the number of rounds that can be discharged, they add.Furthermore, there has also been blatant disregard by the Fraternal Order of Police for the well-being of the community when challenged to move the range.

“With everything considered, Lincoln Heights has a wealth of issues that need to be addressed in order to move the community closer to repair. Our goal is to initiate the call for amble and deliberate consideration given to studying these conditions and this unique and troubling tale of one of the only suburban open-air shooting ranges controlled by one of the largest police forces in America,” said Collins.

Lincoln Heights residents say the primary purpose for the initiation of a study into the impacts this gun range has produced is to ignite the healing process within the historic Black community.

“It is important,” Collins said, “to be able to assess the damage that has occurred that impacts behavior, mental health, and overall public health of the current and former residents of Lincoln Heights. More than just the public nuisance, we must consider the secondary and/or tertiary impacts that are created with emotional or mental instability with those who are struggling with PTSD and/or toxic stress. When you consider that this shooting range may [be] the only operating in such proximity to an urban community in the nation, we must realize and act upon this civil rights injustice – if for no other reason than to ensure that we protect the next generation of youth.’’

There has recently been a need to rejuvenate Lincoln Heights indicated by city officials and community leaders and a push to improve academic, economic and socioeconomic outcomes for the residents of the community. The Village of Lincoln Heights currently ranks 1,013 of 1,065 municipalities in the State of Ohio, according to American Community Survey.

“This place, the once self-sustaining and vibrant community, is in the bottom 0.01% of incorporated communities in Ohio, which brings about clear and persistent questions about the root causes given the wealth gap with surrounding communities,’’ Collins said.

This past Juneteenth, village residents declared they were no longer willing to remain silent about conditions in their community or indifferent about their plight with our protest of the shooting range.    

“As we deal with a national reckoning of police misconduct and the heartless murder and terrorization of Black bodies, our angst, experiences and voices have been completely and intentionally ignored,’’ Collins said.” The City of Cincinnati’s Law and Public Safety Committee, the municipalities of Evendale, Lincoln Heights and Woodlawn, Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and Cincinnati Police Department have worked in silence without any transparency or community input on the what to do next with the land that the shooting range has occupied for the last 80 years.

The Heights Movement is a collective of men and women from the community focused on realizing a more prosperous future for the Village of Lincoln Heights. The core foci are academic excellence, economic development and public health with the expressed goal of bringing expertise and social innovation in all activities. www.theheightsmovement.com