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Columbus Police Keep Focus On Summertime Crime
For the past 10 summers, Columbus Police have changed tactics to reduce violent crime and gang activity. It’s called the Community Safety Initiative. Special groups of police officers patrol high crime neighborhoods.
The program was started by Mayor Michael Coleman in 2004. During the summer, some Columbus police offices are broken off into groups of ten. Each group focuses on a specific neighborhood. They get to stay in that area. They get to know its streets, its people. Commander Mark Lang says the officers become part of the neighborhood.
“They are able to be in the area and not have to leave all the time to go answer other runs and really focus on the problems people and the problems location in their part of town,” says Lang.
Weinland Park is one of the target neighborhoods. Violence and gang activity have plagued its residents for years.
A homemaker and 20 year resident Lin Mitchell recalls witnessing a frightening event involving neighborhood children.
“A lady around the corner; the kids were playing on the sidewalk and she pulled a gun on them. These children are between five and ten. And they were on the sidewalk,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell has a seven-year-old son.
“Police didn’t do anything about it. They just questioned her. So I have an issue with that, so now my children stay in front of my house.”
Mitchell worries about safety, but she refuses to move.
Neighbor Megan Mathis has lived in Weinland Park on and off for the past 10 years. She says the neighborhood has improved, but there’s still work to be done.
“I woke up to a gun shot at about 5 am, it was just a single shot, so there’s still that element in the neighborhood,” says Mathis.
Another Weinland Park neighbor who did not want to be identified said he saw thieves steal a car in front of his house. He did not call police in fear of retaliation.
Donte Brooks has lived in his Weinland Park house for 45 years and says he’s seen progress.
“I think especially with the Short north posse being dispersed or put away or whatever happened to them that made a big difference,” says Brooks.
The ‘Short North Posse’ is a gang formed in the 90′s that police say recently tried to regroup. Earlier this summer in the largest federal murder indictment in Ohio history, prosecutors charged 17 alleged gang members with using violence to intimidate and extort victims and witnesses.
City-wide, police say crime has decreased the past few years. Murders have gone down from 105 in 2011 to 90 last year.
“We hope as we focus on the gang members, on the people who are responsible for the kind of crime that are most shocking to our community, those are the kind of crimes that we hope we are having the biggest impact on,” says Lang.
Mayor Coleman says it’s important the initiative adapts from year to year.
“It’s a matter of changing strategy every year. And because as the division of police has a tactic and a strategy, the gangs and the bad folks in our communities figure it out and they adjust.” says Coleman.
The police department collects feedback from communities and officers assigned to the area to adjust for the next year.
The special police initiative runs until September.