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Cleveland City Council members address surge in carjackings, call for change in police pursuit policy

"We need to send a message loud and clear that enough is enough."

CLEVELAND — Amid concerns over a recent rash of carjackings in the city, Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley, along with Council members Kerry McCormack and Blaine Griffin, held a news conference on Friday afternoon at Lincoln Park in Tremont.

"This weekend, we saw a horrific spate of carjackings," Kelley said. "We saw victims that were brutalized in a way that should never happen in Cleveland, Ohio. It was made worse by the fact that when reports came out, we learned that pursuit was not followed in these cases."

The councilmembers are calling for a reexamination of police procedure when it comes to vehicle pursuits.

According to the Cleveland Division of Police's vehicle pursuit policy, which was released to the media later on Friday, emphasis is placed on 'the importance of conducting vehicle pursuits in a way that lessens the danger to other motorists and pedestrians.'  

The policy states, in part:

Officers may initiate a vehicle pursuit when ALL of the following criteria are met:

  • The Suspect operating the vehicle refuses to stop at the officer’s direction and flees apprehension for an actual or alleged violent felony.
  • Operating a Vehicle Intoxicated (OVI). 
  • The immediate danger of the pursuit is less that the immediate or potential danger to the public if the suspect remains at large and the officer is operating an authorized emergency vehicle. 

The division adds that "each vehicle pursuit is a unique event and can be terminated for reasons including: weather, time of day, volume of vehicle and pedestrian traffic, road conditions, capability of the pursuit vehicle, population density, geographic location, officer familiarity with the area and proximity to certain areas (such as schools, parks, playgrounds, and venues associated with crowds) during those times when pedestrians are reasonably perceived to be active."

"We need to send a message loud and clear that enough is enough," Kelley added. "If you commit a crime in Cleveland, Ohio, you will be pursued, you will be caught, and you will be prosecuted. There is no middle ground with that."

Earlier this week, the Cleveland Division of Police conducted a city-wide operation targeting multiple suspects wanted for vehicle thefts and carjackings throughout the city and surrounding suburbs. Three suspects were taken into custody. Those three individuals and approximately seven others are suspected in over 30 Grand Theft Motor Vehicle and Aggravated Robberies, at times shooting at or striking their victims. The suspects range in age from 14-19 years old.

Cleveland City Council will hold a special hearing on this matter on Wednesday, March 17 at 10 a.m.

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You can watch Friday's news conference in the player below: