Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther says his 2017 Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy, with new tactics including increased police bicycle and foot patrols, is starting to pay off.
At a news conference Nov. 26 at the Barack Community Center in south Columbus, Ginther touted how the city’s police recruit class for 2019 would be increased by 10 officers to a total 90, and the city would add another 90 next year.
He didn’t say how that would affect total staffing, taking into account retirements and officers leaving for other jobs.
Columbus police began a “Safe Streets” program in Linden in 2017 to “reengage” the community and reduce violent crimes, attempting to put officers on the front line of identifying needs and solving problems, said Lt. Marc Helder, the program’s coordinator.
In 2018 and 2019, the program expanded to the Hilltop and Southeast neighborhoods, respectively, with each of the three teams consisting of 10 officers and two sergeants.
The program in 2019 has seized 157 illegal firearms (up 44% over 2018), made more than 300 felony arrests (279 in 2018), seized 953 grams of heroin (215 in 2018) and placed placards shuttering 93 structures, such as suspected drug houses (48 in 2018).
Helder said when he was asked to lead the effort, he initially was reluctant to take the “Safe Streets” assignment because he didn’t know what to expect.
Now, he said, “I can tell you, I’m sold.”
Ginther had nothing to say specific to a stretch of the Sullivant Avenue corridor The Columbus Dispatch researched for the recent “Suffering on Sullivant” series identified as failing in almost every metric used to measure the health of neighborhoods.
Between 2017 and last summer, the 3-mile stretch of Sullivant Avenue from Dodge Park west through Franklinton and the Hilltop was the site of 1,880 prostitution arrests, 150 reports of indecent exposure (the most in the city), more than 1,100 narcotics complaints and 1,374 reports of shots fired last year, the Dispatch reported in the series.
When asked by the Dispatch after the press briefing if the city had or was developing any plans to address that area’s issues in particular, Ginther, who had told the newspaper after the series that the Sullivant Avenue corridor was “a top priority,” turned and walked away without speaking.
In an email after the event, Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said “Safe Streets” and a new ShotSpotter technology designed to detect gunshots and other crime and social programs all are working together to help Sullivant Avenue.
“We are also working with partners on the opiate action plan and illegal dumping,” Davis wrote. “All of these commitments will help improve the lives of people along Sullivant (Avenue).”