Nine months after his youngest daughter's death, the grief still weighs heavily on Ray Gene McIntosh.
Someone fired about five shots into his daughter's bedroom window in north Omaha on April 3. Larceeda L. McIntosh, 25, was struck and killed. No arrests have been made.
This Christmas was a tragic one, McIntosh said, the first for Larceeda's 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter without their mother.
"We spent 25 years trying to raise her, protect and nurture her, and then this guy comes along and takes her away from us," McIntosh said. "I can never forgive that individual. The pain is just too great."
Many others in Omaha know such pain. Larceeda McIntosh was one of 37 homicide victims in the city in 2011.
The 37 killed made 2011 an average year for homicides in Omaha. But it did represent the second consecutive annual uptick after deaths had fallen dramatically in 2009.
"Although this would be within the range of average annual homicides, the only acceptable number is zero," said Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes.
Hayes and other community leaders say recent efforts to combat violence are working — though slowly. There's been growing cooperation between police and community groups, but more people need to get involved in their neighborhoods, they say.
This past August, nearly 50 people were arrested in one of Omaha's largest crackdowns on drugs and street violence. The gun and drug sweep was carried out by federal agents and Omaha police.
Hayes said the pressure on criminals will continue. Putting more officers on the street would help, he said, but the department is doing its best to work with the manpower it has.
Hayes said police would also continue to work on community relations, attempting to get more people to come forward with information on homicides and other crimes.
Omaha police cleared 16 — or 43 percent — of the 2011 homicides, according to World-Herald records. The clearance rate does not include arrests during the year for homicides that occurred in previous years.
While that clearance rate is below the national average, which typically runs at more than 60 percent annually, it appears on par for that of cities of 250,000 and above. Such cities cleared an average of 41 percent of homicides in 2010, according to FBI data.
Omaha's deadliest month in 2011 was September, when seven people were shot and one person stabbed to death.
The 2011 victims included 30 men and seven women and ranged in age from 66 to 14. More than 90 percent of the deaths were caused by gunfire. About 60 percent of the homicides occurred north of Dodge Street and east of 60th Street.
In addition to the 37 homicides there were four other slayings that were ruled justified by law officers.
No matter the number, the pain for the affected families will never go away, said Sadie Bankston, director of People United Lending Support and Encouragement, an Omaha group that supports the survivors of homicide victims. She lost her own son to a shooting more than 20 years ago.
"You just place your loved ones in that special place in your heart and try to go on with your life," Bankston said.
McIntosh said it was unfortunate that those who committed the killings don't think about the pain they inflicted on families. And he said he thinks many of the killings could be stopped if people got more involved.
"We have to lock arms or join hands, join in the effort to slow these killings down," he said. "Because it's getting pretty bad."
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