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Columbus Neighborhood Commits To Fighting Violent Crimes
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A Columbus neighborhood vows to take back its streets and stop teen shootings and other crimes that ramped up during the summer.
At a neighborhood meeting at Hope Lutheran Church, resident Stacee Green points out the violence that plagued the area …12 shootings and 6 murders in Driving Park. Overall in Columbus there have been 68 murders.
“That means we are almost 10% of the murders in Columbus. We need you to see something and say something,” says Green.
Green moved to Driving Park as a child in the 1970’s when she says it was safe to go for a walk at night. She now owns her own home on Kelton Avenue, south of Livingston, the same street where her parents still live. She says violence surges out of control and gunshots are common today.
“Any nights or any day you hear them is one day too many, but it’s not infrequent. There are a lot of guns in our neighborhood,” says Green.
“I grew up in Driving Park mostly here on Kelton Avenue south of Whittier. I remember riding my bike on the streets until dark with many of the other neighborhood kids. And every Halloween we would trick or treat door to door for blocks- way past dark. We didn’t worry about gunshots.”
But today guns are used often in Columbus crimes.
In Driving Park situated south of I-70 between German Village and Alum Creek Drive, the Ohio Department of Public Safety reports last year those ages 20 and younger were victims of firearms crimes 50 times.
Efforts to stem neighborhood violence depend on longtime residents like 86 year old James Johnson. He’s president of Driving Park Civic Association. Johnson has lived on Berkeley Avenue for more than 45 years where he and his late wife reared 3 children.
He says while crime rates go up and down in Driving Park he doesn’t believe in complacency. Johnson works to get more neighbors involved in improving the area.
“What you do is modify, update and make it better whatever you’re doing. Disappointment is not part of the process,” says Johnson.
Johnson says he refuses to be intimidated by those who want to commit crimes. He wants new city laws passed to label certain neighborhood crimes “terrorism.”
Also working to make streets safer on the southeast side of Columbus is Reverend Carl Rayburn. He walks door to door once a week to talk to residents.
Rayburn is the pastor of Hope Lutheran Church on Lilley Avenue. About 70 members attend Sunday services.
“No one’s going to snap a finger and change something overnight. But somehow we can make a difference with a person or a home, a block,” says Rayburn
While many home owners are not in during the day, Rayburn talks to those who do answer their door. Like Joyce Robinson who has lived here for more than 30 years.
“I listen to the news and it’s kind of sad, it’s real sad, about the children, about them killing one another, young boys, 15 and 16 years old. And I think that’s pretty bad,” says Robinson.
Robinson says her street stays quiet most of the time, but a couple of years ago thieves stole her husband’s tools.
Reverend Rayburn’s church hosts community meetings where neighbors talk about crime on their streets. He does not live here nor did he grow up in the area. Most of the residents are black and low-income. Rayburn is white and lives in Pickerington.
“Some of them are surprised to see this white guy. I wear my clergy shirt when I do that, so they can recognize that relationship as well. But you know some of them are probably a little surprised when I show up knocking on their door,” says Rayburn.
Columbus Police officer Barry Kirby stays connected to the Driving Park community by attending the monthly meetings.. He works at a neighborhood precinct. The summer rash of teen shootings Kirby says got residents talking.
“It is alarming, it is not uncommon. There have been years where we’ve had more and obviously there have been years where we’ve had less. But the real moral to the story is now that you see people starting to pay attention,” says Kirby.
Community leader Stacee Green admits she does not have all of the answers on how to refocus those who fall into crime. Residents support the redevelopment on Livingston Avenue that includes a new Driving Park branch library, and a Dollar General Store. Green also says schools need to strengthen efforts to educate urban students. Green organizes youth events to expose them to positive experiences. Fall activities include free plane rides and a Halloween performance; activities that many children who don’t live on violent streets take for granted.