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Widespread information on crimes makes some wary

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Fear Factor may have gone off the air, but fear is very much a factor for some Clintonville residents these days.

Concerns about crime -- both actual and perceived -- came up at last week's Clintonville Area Commission meeting.

District 8 resident Susan Winkfield told the panel she had recently joined the "Clintonville Crime & Blockwatch Monitor" group on Facebook and found the ongoing tracking of vehicle break-ins, burglaries and other incidents "kind of scary."

As of Monday, Oct. 8, the Facebook page had 1,445 members.

Although she had not been the victim of a crime herself, Winkfield said she came to the meeting at the urging of District 5 representative Dana K.G. Bagwell to see if the commission could become an advocate for more police protection in the neighborhood, providing there is justification for it. It's possible the Facebook page is simply making people more aware of the crime that is occurring, Winkfield said.

"We're seeing it on the web," she said. "There is a lot of frustration."

Jason Meek of District 7 said the CAC used to have a safety liaison who served as a go-between for residents and safety forces. Meek, who replaced that individual, Dave Southan, said next month he would propose forming a safety and crime committee, with representatives from all nine districts and perhaps the business community. The purpose would be to get a handle on what's really taking place in terms of crime from Columbus police and not deal with the "fear factor" of online hysteria, Meek said.

Clintonville always has experienced a low level of crime, Bagwell said, but these days, "everybody's reporting everything" on websites and blogs, increasing alarm in some residents.

"It's very easy to get overwhelmed," Bagwell said.

The recent arrest by Westerville police of two people thought to be responsible for many of the vehicle break-ins in Clintonville might reduce the amount of crime in the neighborhood, she said.

Julie Becker and Joanna M. Mannon, two officers with the Community Response Team, were in attendance and said their function is to address safety concerns such as those raised by Winkfield. Members of the team work from 2 p.m. to midnight. They don't respond to service calls, but instead concentrate on stamping out crime in a specific area.

On the subject of the Internet, CAC members failed for the second straight meeting to come to a decision regarding permanently appointing a volunteer to run the commission's website or forming a policy relating to what should and should not be posted there.

Chairman Dan Miller, who was absent from the October session, raised the issue Sept. 6. He proposed permanently appointing former District 2 representative Sarah Snyder to the office of webmaster and restricting the content of the site to strictly commission-related business. Following protracted discussion about the possible need to amend the bylaws to make such an appointment and why individual commission members couldn't post information relating to their specific districts, the matter was put off to the next meeting.

Vice Chairman Rob Wood, who represents District 1, started last week's equally protracted discussion by proposing not only the appointment of Snyder as webmaster but also opening the CAC site's calendar to postings from all nonprofit organizations and civic groups in the community.

"I don't support that," District 9's D Searcy said, raising the specter of commission members finding themselves obligated to carry a calendar listing about a Ku Klux Klan march in Clintonville.

"We have no definition for recognizing civic groups," Searcy said.

"Let's take it down a notch from the KKK," Bagwell said, but agreed with Searcy that Wood's proposal would put the panel in the position of making judgment calls regarding which group's postings are worthwhile and which ones are not.

"It could get a little out of hand, as far as a calendar," agreed District 3 representative James R. Blazer II.

Wood's original motion was voted down, 0-7.

"It fails unanimously," he said.

The members present then agreed, again unanimously, to postpone the website vote until November.

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