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Council bill to curb gun violence by working with community organizations tabled Tuesday

"It's a real slap in the face" to these community-organized groups, the bill's main sponsor, council member George Sarantou, said after Tuesday's council meeting.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The main sponsor of a Toledo City Council bill to curb gun violence in the city tabled the resolution Tuesday because it didn't have the necessary votes to pass.

Council member George Sarantou said he does not expect the resolution, also sponsored by council members Theresa Morris and Tiffany Preston Whitman, to return to the floor.

The resolution has divided some council members over its goal to establish closer working relationships between grassroots organizations like the Coalition for Peaceful Toledo Neighborhoods and council.

"It's a real slap in the face" to these community-organized groups, Sarantou said after Tuesday's council meeting.

When Sarantou first introduced the resolution, which also initially sought to "boost" neighborhood associations, to council on Nov. 15, 2022, he said crime in Toledo was "out of control." As of that council meeting, the city of Toledo had 59 homicides in 2022.

By the end of the year, 2022 became the second-deadliest year in Toledo's history with 65 homicides. There were 70 homicides in Toledo in 2021 and 62 in 2020, marking a stretch of three starkly violent years preceded by homicide numbers that had not gone above 40 since 1994.

There have been two homicides in Toledo in 2023, both shooting deaths in north Toledo.

Council members who opposed the initial bill Sarantou and Morris sponsored did not oppose their efforts to make headway on violent crime reduction, but rather the method of how to do it.

Whitman, who suggested city efforts to curb gun violence should instead focus on initiatives the city itself had already invested in, such as the violence interrupters and Save Our Community programs, eventually sponsored the resolution that was tabled Tuesday.

Council member John Hobbs III said neighborhood associations need safe meeting places before they can be effective again, because criminals were attending block watches meetings in high-crime areas and intimidating participants into silence or harassing them until they stopped attending the meetings.

Council as a whole made progress in 2022 in violent crime reduction when members unanimously voted to declare gun violence a public health crisis on Dec. 20, making the city eligible for more grants and state and federal funding to help combat the mental and environmental issues that lead to people pulling the trigger.

Per Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz's estimate, a new Toledo police chief will be selected by the end of January and take office by March 1.

Former Toledo police chief George Kral retired on Jan. 10 and was recognized by council Tuesday for 30 years of service in the Toledo Police Department. Michael Troendle, who Kapszukiewicz said is in the running to become the permanent Toledo police chief, holds the temporary position of interim TPD chief.

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