Jennifer Foster. Photo provided by WCPO
By Andria Y. Carter and Kristen Swilley
CINCINNATI – Several neighborhoods in the City of Cincinnati are feeling the deep impact of gun violence on its residents. In 2020, the city is witnessing an increase in shootings with 469 reported cases with 82 being fatal. Currently, Avondale is the leading neighborhood with 9 fatal shootings, North Avondale and the West End are tied as the second leading neighborhoods with 8 fatal shootings.
The trauma of violence on any neighborhood is impactful and can felt for generations. To date, the top 10 neighborhoods experiencing the impact of fatal gun violence are: Avondale, North Avondale, West End, Westwood, Over-the-Rhine, East Price Hill, Mt. Airy, Spring Grove Village, CUF and Cincinnati Business District (CBD)/Riverfront.
In Avondale, Jennifer Foster is a shooting survivor using her experience to help find ways to stop the violence and create a better future for Avondale’s youth. In East Price Hill, William Franklin is still hoping to find out who killed his 14-year-old son, Cameron in July 2019. Cameron’s death has left a deep whole in his life, but he is using that pain to find a better pathway for youth on the West side.
Jennifer Foster doesn’t have to imagine what gun violence is like on city streets, she know first hand having been shot while sitting on her building’s stoop in 2013. She was shot in the left leg.
“I remember seeing the guy come out of the sunroof of the car and when he started shooting I actually thought I made it in the house because the normal reaction being in an area like this is to ‘run.’ You want to get out of the line of fire,” Foster explained.
Today, Foster is making a new line of fire by encouraging people to change their ways to make Avondale safer. “I wasn’t going to lay down and just say what’s going on with the violence in the community, I’m going to do something about,” she said.
Now, Foster serves as a mother-like figure in the neighborhood. During her interview with the Cincinnati Herald and WCPO, Foster noted that the city needs more grandmothers. “In the old days, we had grandmothers in the streets telling people what they could or could not do. If you did wrong you heard it from the neighbors then your parents when you got home,” she said.
“We need more grandmothers on our streets,” she added again.
For Christmas, Foster has agreed to be the decorating chair as the Avondale neighborhood begins putting up holiday lights and decorations. She has recruited youth and families to assist in a way to allow for social distancing.
“We have to be more active in the community. We have turned a blind eye to a lot of the things that’s going on and there just needs to be more role models,” Foster said.
The holiday decorations are part of a new safety initiative formed by Council Member Jan Michele Kearney. “Community engagement, cleaning up and beautifying are just steps toward reducing violence and moving toward the type of community that everyone wants: a safe, beautiful place where there are opportunities for everyone,” Kearney said.
“Gun violence and crime have no place here or anywhere else,” she added.
While Foster is working to improve Avondale, William Franklin is waiting and working in East Price Hill.
“Not much has changed. Still don’t know anything. Still don’t have any answers,” Franklin said. No arrests have been made in his son’s death.
“It’s been a challenge. You would have thought that kids being at a party would have seen something, but apparently everybody doesn’t know nothing and wasn’t there and that’s the aggravating part,” he said.
Despite the aggravation of not having answers, Franklin is working to find solutions as the city experiences an uptick in shootings. He is working with local community activists seeking solutions and funding for things like after school programming.
“As a city, we’re divided. Everyone wants to jump when something happens, but nobody wants to do anything about preventative,” Franklin noted. He is determined to keep fighting until he sees change in the city.
“Unfortunately, the only one who knows what happened that night (of his son’s death) is him and until people want to come forward and start speaking and start talking we’re never going to know what really happened,” he said.
Franklin believes everyone needs to be involved to fight for change. He won’t stop until he sees change. “We can be better as a city with this. We can be the city that decideds ‘Hey, enough’s enough,” he added.
The Cincinnati Herald and WCPO-Channel 9 News partnered to take a look at the impact of Gun Violence on City of Cincinnati.