The mayor highlighted the city’s accomplishments but also made sure to touch on a topic many community members were anxious to hear about: violent crime in the city.
TOLEDO, Ohio — Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz held the 2022 State of the City address at the Glass City Metropark in east Toledo on Wednesday as a way to highlight both the positives and negatives that have happened in the last year.
It was the mayor’s first state of the city address since his re-election.
During the speech, the mayor highlighted the city’s accomplishments and growth but also made sure he mentioned a topic many community members were anxious to hear about: the city’s recent increase in violent crime.
For comparison; there have been 18 total homicides since the beginning of the year. More than half of them occurred from April 10 to May 11, and three of them were juveniles.
“No one can think what we’ve seen is acceptable, it’s not,” said Mayor Kapszukiewicz.
Part of the plan to decrease the violence is by increasing safety forces.
The mayor announced his plans to hire 100 more Toledo police officers by the end of 2026.
He also said shot spotter will be extending to another neighborhood.
In regard to the violence in the city, he says violent crime numbers are actually down, but we’re seeing numbers of crimes increase like domestic violence or situations where the victim/intended victim knows their attacker.
“Unfortunately we’re seeing retaliation,” he said. “It speaks to what we need to do, in almost every case, the victim and the attacker knew each other or if not the victim, the target knew his or her attacker, of course, that have been an innocent bystander.”
The mayor announced the results of a third targeted police operation in east Toledo, pulling dozens of guns off the streets and making nearly 200 arrests.
Along with safety and violence, he says the community needs to step up because it “takes a village” to help make the city safer.
Kapszukiewicz also highlighted improvements to the city like replacing residential lead pipes, affordable housing options, rental assistance, improving city parks, and the investments into the Wayman Palmer YMCA.
The Mayor spoke about the city’s use of American Rescue Plan money saying every dollar is an investment in the people and the neighborhoods.
Universal Pre-K was also a major talking point, saying Toledo youth is behind and we need to step up to help them.
“We are the only big city that already does not already provide universal Pre-K,” he said. “We have to do it, City Council understands that. That’s why City Council stepped up and passed that money last night, which by the way $1.25 million dollars but should be thought about as 20-million dollars because it leverages that money from ProMedia, TPS, and others.”
The mayor announced a new hire in an effort to secure more grant money for the city.
And he teased some other big announcements.
City leaders react
Following the mayor’s speech, WTOL 11 talked with city council leaders and the city’s director of public safety.
They all play a part in fighting violence in our city.
But Kapszukiewicz says there’s a part everyone needs to play in ending the violence.
“Our story in Toledo is one where there is more good than bad happening. But it doesn’t mean we’re satisfied and it doesn’t mean that the bad isn’t heartbreaking. Which is why we’re putting such a focus on it,” Kapszukiewicz said.
Crime, violence and heartbreak are at the top of Toledoans’ minds.
And Kapszukiewicz addressed it at the end of his State of the City speech.
“The people involved in this gun violence aren’t working for the betterment of Toledo,” he said.
City director of public safety, Brian Byrd, is among those working toward a solution.
Wednesday afternoon he listened while standing in the audience.
“Our priority is doing what we can to try to keep those numbers low in the area that they’re low, where our violence interrupters are. And expanding that program out. The mayor touched on that some. To get it into the other areas of the city that have been affected,” Byrd said.
It’s the biggest priority for Toledo City Councilwoman Cerssandra McPherson.
But she says she was disappointed that there wasn’t a bigger emphasis on the recent violence.
“I just wanted him to be a little stronger in saying that as the mayor, we will not tolerate this behavior. We will not tolerate the abuse of our women, of our children. And that we are going after these people,” McPherson said.
The at-large councilwoman says she worries kids outside during the summer could become victims of gun violence.
But Kapszukiewicz says the city is doing something about it.
“We are adding 100 more police officers to the street. We’ve unveiled a program of 100 different activities, most free, that kids can do this summer. We’re doing a long-term thing, like building YMCAs in neighborhoods that need investment,” Kapszukiewicz said.
Still, McPherson says it starts at the top and she hopes to see the mayor sternly directing the city in eradicating violence first.
“Man up. Let’s get tough. Let’s get serious about this. We’re losing children. Now, let’s say ‘I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,'” McPherson said. “And the people need to hear that.”.
Kapszukiewicz and Byrd say they’re currently working on interviewing and hiring a new director for the Gun Violence Reduction Initiative.
And after more conversations, they’re hoping someone can fill those shoes soon.